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Psoriasis May Be Indicator for Other Major Health Issues

Posted: June 22, 2009

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The risk appears to stem from the chronic inflammation associated with psoriasis, he explained. "This systemic inflammation causes damage to blood vessels, leading to increased risk," he said. The medical lesson of the study is that "it is critical for people who have psoriasis to understand their increased risk and have their other risk factors addressed," he said.

Cardiovascular risk is linked to the severity of the skin disease, Kirsner said, and "there are some data suggesting that treating psoriasis can lower the risk." However, the data are only suggestive, noted Dr. Joel M. Gelfand, medical director of the University of Pennsylvania's department of dermatology clinical studies unit, which has published several reports showing the same association.

One of his group's studies, using British data, found a 55% increased cardiovascular risk and a 78% higher death rate in persons with psoriasis, Gelfand said. "But we don't have enough data to know if controlling psoriasis would also control those risks," he said. "This is a key public health question best answered in a randomized, controlled trial."

Like Kirsner, Gelfand stressed the need to address traditional cardiovascular risk factors in people with psoriasis. "Patients who have psoriasis, especially severe cases, should be screened for modifiable risk factors," he said. "We have a plan in place for our patients to achieve a healthy lifestyle, a plan that includes weight control and exercise."

Psoriasis affects 2–3% of the world's population, including 7 million Americans, the new report estimated.