Health Problems Linked to Psoriasis
Important health problems are linked to psoriasis. Early in my dermatology career doctors believed that psoriasis was mostly a skin problem. Now we view psoriasis much differently. Psoriasis is a systemic inflammatory disease with overall physiologic inflammation that can lead to other health problems.
Psoriasis is more than skin deep.
Health problems linked to psoriasis include some of our biggest killers which are diseases that are also associated with systemic inflammation. This means that if you are prone to psoriasis, you are 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 of articles 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. You will find the links to the other posts at the end of this article.
What are the psoriasis comorbidities, meaning the health problems that are linked to psoriasis?
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:
- Cardiovascular disease. This includes high blood lipids/cholesterol, blocked arteries (atherosclerotic disease), heart attack, high blood pressure, and cerebrovascular disease (strokes).
- Metabolic syndrome, which can lead to diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, and obesity.
- Diabetes. Even without metabolic syndrome, if you have psoriasis you are at greater risk for diabetes.
- Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
- 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.
- Depression. People with psoriasis have a higher incidence of depression.
- 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?
All of these comorbidities respond to diet and lifestyle changes. Make the changes that lower the risk of these comorbidities and you will also improve your psoriasis.
Click here to read Part 2 of my Psoriasis Series and see my recommendations for Lifestyle Changes To Help Heal Psoriasis.
In part 3 of this series, I discuss skin care to help heal psoriasis. Like so many skin problems, we get the best results when we heal our skin from the inside out and the outside in. Click here for part 3 of this series 5 Skin Care Tips to Heal Psoriasis.
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This overview of psoriatic comorbidities is adapted from an educational session I attended, presented by Joel Gelfand, MD at the 2013 Hawaii Dermatology Meeting
National Psoriasis Foundation Web Site
Photo attribution: Thanks and gratitude to © Frederic Cirou/PhotoAlto/Corbis