Dermatologist explains that psoriasis is so much more than just a skin problem.
Early in my dermatology career doctors believed that psoriasis was mostly a skin problem. Now we view psoriasis much differently. Psoriasis is an inflammatory disease with overall physiologic inflammation. Health problems linked to psoriasis include some of our biggest killers - other diseases associated with inflammation. What this means is 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.
First, what health problems 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 blocked arteries (atherosclerotic disease), heart attack, high blood pressure, and 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.
- 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?
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. Click here to read Part 2 of my Psoriasis Series and see my recommendations for Lifestyle Changes To Help Heal Psoriasis. and part 3, 5 Skin Care Tips to Heal Psoriasis.
This overview of psoriatic comorbidities is adapted from an educational session I attended, presented by Joel Gelfand, MD at the 2013 Hawaii Dermatology Meeting
Photo attribution: Thanks and gratitude to © Frederic Cirou/PhotoAlto/Corbis