Health Concerns Related to Psoriasis

Cynthia Bailey, MD|March 19, 2013

“Once upon a time” people thought of psoriasis purely as a skin disease.  Occasionally people with psoriasis would have arthritis too, but no one thought of it as the “tip of the iceberg” for a whole host of seemingly unrelated diseases.

Fast forward to 2013 and psoriasis is joining company with some of our biggest killer diseases. What this means for you is that that if you're prone to psoriasis, you're also at greater risk for heart disease, cancer, diabetes, depression, and more. If you or someone you love has psoriasis, you need to know what other dangerous health problems to watch out for. You also need to know that there are things you can do to help both your overall health and your skin problem - and this is the silver lining in our evolving scientific understanding of psoriasis.

In this 3-part series on psoriasis, first, I'm going to update you on the diseases linked to psoriasis, called psoriasis comorbidities. Second, I'm going to give you actionable steps to help keep your skin and body healthy. Third, I'm going to outline the skin care advice that I give my psoriasis patients.

First, what’s the "bad news" about psoriasis and your general health?

Doctors now know that people with psoriasis are at increased risk for some of the most common big killer diseases. These diseases are called psoriasis “comorbidities” - meaning the diseases are separate but they seem to be linked. If you have psoriasis you’re at greater risk for:

  1. Cardiovascular disease. This includes blocked arteries (atherosclerotic disease), heart attack, high blood pressure, and strokes.
  2. Metabolic syndrome, which can lead to diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, and obesity.
  3. Diabetes. Even without metabolic syndrome, if you have psoriasis you are at greater risk for diabetes.
  4. Cancer. The connection is not clear but a variety of cancers are seen more frequently in people with psoriasis including lung, pancreas, bladder, liver, breast, and colon cancer. Plus, a type of lymphoma of the skin called mycosis fungoides is also seen more commonly in people with psoriasis.
  5. Depression. People with psoriasis have a higher incidence of depression.
  6. Immune related conditions. People with psoriasis are at risk for psoriatic arthritis and conditions such as Crohn's disease.

What’s the "good news" about psoriasis?

In the second post of this series I cover the "good news" and what you can do to help both your psoriasis and your overall health.  Here is part 2 of my Psoriasis Series: Lifestyle Changes To Help Heal Psoriasis.

Reference: This overview of psoriatic comorbidities is adapted from an educational session I attended, presented by Joel Gelfand, MD at the 2013 Hawaii Dermatology Meeting. For more see the National Psoriasis Foundation Web Site.

Photo attribution: Thanks and gratitude to © Frederic Cirou/PhotoAlto/Corbis

Add Your Comment