Psoriasis patients at increasing risk for range of serious medical conditions

August 7, 2013

Patients with mild, moderate and severe psoriasis had increasingly higher odds of having at least one major medical disease in addition to psoriasis, when compared to patients without psoriasis. Reporting findings in JAMA Dermatology, researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, concluded that the severity of disease, as measured by the percentage of body surface area affected by psoriasis, was strongly linked to an increased presence of other diseases affecting the lungs, heart, kidneys, liver and pancreas.

The research is part of the landmark Incident Health Outcomes and Psoriasis Events (iHOPE) Study. The investigators surveyed general practitioners caring for 9035 psoriasis patients - 52 percent with mild disease, 36 percent with moderate disease, and 12 percent with severe disease affecting more than 10 percent of their body surface area. Significant associations were found between psoriasis and a range of diseases, including (COPD), diabetes, mild liver disease, and , peptic , renal disease and other rheumatologic diseases.

"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," said senior study author, Joel M. Gelfand, MD, MSCE, associate professor of Dermatology and Epidemiology. "The complications from diabetes and links to COPD, kidney disease and we identified suggest 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."

Although thought of as a disease limited to skin and joints, earlier work from the interdisciplinary Penn team has demonstrated the systemic effects of this ; particularly those related to diabetes, cardiovascular disease and mortality. A higher risk of diabetes was previously identified in psoriasis patients, and this study revealed that additional diabetes-associated systemic complications, such as retinopathy and neuropathy, were correlated with the severity of psoriasis as well. The diseases share a common pathway - TH-1 cytokines - known to promote inflammation and insulin resistance. By identifying these co-occuring diseases, researchers hope patients will receive comprehensive care with proper health screening, evaluation and management.

The investigators are currently conducting the Vascular Inflammation in Psoriasis Trial (NCT01553058) designed to determine if different treatment approaches to psoriasis are likely to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.

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