Patients with a much misunderstood skin disease are finding life more difficult after the saga of disgraced district councillor Alex Ho Wai-to. The Kwun Tong District Council member served six months of custody and education after allegedly being found with a prostitute in a Dongguan hotel. He quit the Democratic Party after his release in February. He said he was suffering from hepatitis and psoriasis. Some people have mistakenly assumed he got the skin disease from his alleged dalliance. 'This wrongful belief that the disease is contagious is unfair to psoriasis patients,' said skin disease doctor Joseph Fung Wai-kit. Dermatologist Louis Shih Tai-cho also pointed out that the incidence of psoriasis has no relation to hygiene. About 1 to 2 per cent of the population suffers from psoriasis. The chronic condition causes cells to grow too quickly, resulting in thick white or red patches of skin. There is no cure, but skin cream, ultraviolet light and immuno-suppressant drugs can help control it. Dr Shih said it was unfortunate that the disease got bad publicity from Mr Ho. 'Patients with psoriasis have always been discriminated against by society in general. Out of the many skin diseases that we have encountered, patients with psoriasis tend to suffer a lot because the problem is very obvious, in the sense that their skin is red and peeling,' he said. 'They won't even go to the gym as they have to wear shorts. Many things that people enjoy and take for granted, they avoid doing. Even simple things - like going to a local hairstylist - because other customers might think they are at risk from the disease.' Psoriasis is triggered by a weakness in the immune system. 'It can be affected by lifestyle. If there is stress, if the patient has some other ongoing disease, if they drink a lot, it can come on. Sometimes it is also hereditary. But most people with psoriasis would not have a family history,' Dr Shih said. Simon Lee, 55, has been suffering psoriasis for nearly 25 years, and his 20-year-old son also has the disease. 'My son and I never tell anyone that we have it, because if we do, they stay away from us,' he said. 'I always wear long sleeves and long pants, even if the weather is over 30 degrees. 'I hope the incident with Mr Ho will arouse the government's concern about this illness, so that they conduct a public education campaign.'