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Health Conditions That Go Hand-in-Hand With Psoriasis

3 min read

By Emily Lockhart

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Jenny Liu, MD

Psoriasis sufferers are among 7.5 million people in the U.S. (according to the American Academy of Dermatology) who deal with the painful and often embarrassing condition chronically. Psoriasis is caused by rapid skin cell growth on the skin’s surface, which results in the appearance of thick red, itchy, dry patches or silvery scales.

No doubt, this condition is uncomfortable enough on it’s own, but unfortunately, it can also increase your risk of these dangerous health issues…

Depression

Understandably, almost any sufferer of a chronic health condition is at increased risk of depression. However, this 2015 New York University (NYU) study found that psoriasis sufferers are 16.5-percent likely to also suffer from depression.

Medical professionals suggest the result is a “chicken or egg effect” where dealing with the stigma of psoriasis can cause depression and vice versa, meaning some doctors believe genetics may make patients predisposed to both depression and psoriasis. This is exactly why communicating with your doctor and taking medication as prescribed to ward off outbreaks are vital to your physical and mental health, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation.

Osteoporosis

Skin does cover bones, however, have you ever pondered a correlation between skin issues and weak bones? A 2016 body of research published in the journal, Science Translational Medicine, has identified a link after performing a series of CT scans on a group of 100 psoriasis sufferers.

The scans revealed that the majority of psoriasis patients experience low bone mass (osteopenia), bone loss (osteoporosis), and heightened levels of cytokine IL-17A (a type of immune system protein that stalls bone growth). However, a University of Rome study notes specific psoriasis drugs (i.e., Taltz and Cosentyx) that work to obstruct  cytokine IL-17A and prevent bone loss.

Ulcerative Colitis

In 2015, the folks at Harvard University discovered a correlation between female psoriasis sufferers and the development of ulcerative colitis, a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). In fact, the research noted that 10-percent of women psoriasis patients developed IBD.

The scientists note that IBD (Crohn’s Disease and colitis) and psoriasis are rooted in the same genetics—issues with  cytokines, which are responsible for keeping the immune system in check.

Obesity

A 2016 study from the University of Copenhagen found a clear association between weight (specifically obese individuals with a BMI in excess of 35) and psoriasis. In fact, researchers noted that overweight individuals double their risk of developing psoriasis. Obesity also increases risk of heart disease, and psoriasis is an independent risk factor for heart attacks. Losing weight will not only help to decrease risk of dying from heart disease, but also help to improve psoriasis.

According to the study’s head researcher, Dr. Ann Sophie Lonnberg, “Psoriasis is a complex disorder”…but suggested that genetics as well as lifestyle choices (i.e., sedentary, smoking, inflammation, and drinking alcohol) may all contribute to this connection.

Crohn’s Disease

Look two slides back and you’ll note the 2015 Harvard study that linked an increase in Ulcerative Colitis as well as Crohn’s disease in women psoriasis patients. In fact, according to the Harvard scientists 10-percent of females who have psoriasis will eventually develop one type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

The scientists discovered that IBD and psoriasis all block certain cytokines that govern the immune system. However, scientists also note that Stelara, an FDA-approved psoriasis therapy, has shown promise as far as alleviating painful Crohn’s symptoms.

Type 2 Diabetes

Shocking research also links type II diabetes patients with psoriasis. In fact, this Danish study featured in the Journal of the American Medical Association, notes that if you have type 2 diabetes, you’re 50-percent more likely to develop psoriasis. Again, see the intricate connection between obesity, metabolic syndrome, and psoriasis.

Dr. Ann Sophie Lonnberg, from the University of Copenhagen, stresses the, “[importance] of treating psoriasis and obesity and diabetes, because they are risk factors for heart disease…and could have serious effects on overall health.”

MD, Board-Certified Dermatologist and Assistant Professor of Dermatology

Dr. Jenny Liu is a board-certified dermatologist and an assistant professor in the Twin Cities. Her academic interests are complex medical dermatology, ethnic dermatology and medical education. She uses her blog and Instagram (@derm.talk) to educate others on all things dermatology and share her own tips and tricks regarding skin care.

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