Though psoriasis is normally thought of as a disease that is limited to the skin and joints, having the disease may increase the likelihood that you might have another, more serious, medical condition. This finding is according to a new study in JAMA Dermatology.
What is psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a disease characterized by thick patches of swollen, scaly skin. About 3 percent of the U.S. population, for reasons unknown, has this condition. Abnormal skin cells multiply rapidly to lead the patches to form, with patients experiencing symptoms including dry, cracked skin that may bleed, itching, burning and soreness.
Psoriasis cases, according to the Mayo Clinic, can exhibit a range of symptoms. They can run the range from a mild nuisance from a few scaling spots to painful, disfiguring severe cases in which large areas of skin are covered.
The research findings indicate that about 15 percent of psoriasis patients may develop a painful joint condition called psoriatic arthritis.
University of Pennsylvania researchers looked at over 18,000 patients in the United Kingdom, half of whom had psoriasis and half who did not. The researchers found that, as the area of the body affected by psoriasis increased, so did the prevalence of many diseases, such as diabetes, COPD, heart attacks and kidney disease.
On Wednesday, the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine stated in a release that patients who had psoriasis had:
…increasingly higher odds of having at least one major medical disease in addition to psoriasis, when compared to patients without psoriasis.”
Also, according to the senior study author Joel Gelfand, MD, MSCE:
As we identify additional diseases linked to psoriasis, patients and physicians need to be aware of the increased odds of serious co-morbid illnesses, which is especially important in severe cases.”
Gelfand is also an associate professor of dermatology and epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania.
She added that his team’s findings showed:
…complications from diabetes and links to COPD, kidney disease and peptic ulcers, suggesting new areas for research, while for the first time, demonstrating how increasing body surface area affected by psoriasis is directly associated with increasing risk of atherosclerotic disease.”
The researchers suggest that the reason for the correlation may be due to the increased overall inflammation seen with psoriasis.
Previous studies, the researchers noted, have linked psoriasis with diabetes, heart disease and increased risk of premature death. However, their study found even more associated complications, for instance, the higher likelihood of eye disease (retinopathy) and nerve damage in psoriasis patients who also had diabetes.
The researchers pointed out the diseases share a common pathway linked to inflammation and insulin resistance.
For now, doctors will be able to use this information to better recognize which patients may benefit from more comprehensive care due to the severity of their skin disease. Also, it could give doctors an indication to check for other, major, diseases.
Written by: Douglas Cobb