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7 Long Term Health Effects of Psoriasis

How psoriasis affects your heart, liver, joints and more, and what to do about it.

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By Jameson Kowalczyk

Psoriasis is much more than a skin condition. Though skin symptoms are the most recognizable symptoms of psoriasis—particularly the raised, silvery patches of dead skin that occur with plaque psoriasis—the condition causes inflammation throughout the body, and is associated with a number of other conditions that can cause long-term damage to your health.

Heart disease

2 / 9 Heart disease

Psoriasis is associated with an increased risk of heart disease and an increased risk of dying from heart disease. Also called cardiovascular disease, heart disease is the name given to a collection of conditions that make it difficult for your heart to function. The most common form is coronary artery disease, where the walls of the arteries near the heart become narrowed and hardened due to a buildup of arterial plaque. This forces the heart to work harder to supply the body with blood, and can lead to heart attacks, cardiac arrest, heart failure, stroke and other deadly disorders.

What’s the connection between psoriasis and heart disease? Healthcare experts believe the answer is inflammation. The overactive immune response that causes psoriasis symptoms to appear on the skin also causes inflammation in the blood vessels. Inflammation in the blood vessels contributes to the narrowing and hardening of arteries.

Type 2 diabetes

3 / 9 Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is a condition where the body is unable to effectively produce enough insulin, or is unable to effectively use the insulin it can produce; insulin is a hormone the body requires in order to metabolize glucose (sugar). When too much glucose builds up in the blood, it can damage the eyes, nerves, kidneys and other parts of the body. Type 2 diabetes is also a major risk factor for heart disease.

Data shows that people with psoriasis have a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and that the risk increases when psoriasis symptoms are more severe. While more research is needed to fully understand the connection between the conditions, there’s evidence that psoriasis causes insulin resistance, preventing the body from using insulin effectively.

Metabolic syndrome

4 / 9 Metabolic syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is the name given to a cluster of conditions that occur together and increase a person’s risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke. This cluster of conditions includes excess body fat around the waist, elevated blood pressure, high blood sugar, low levels of HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol) and high blood triglycerides (a type of fat found in the blood). If you have three or more of these conditions together, you have metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome is more prevalent among people who have psoriasis, and psoriasis symptoms also tend to be more severe in patients with metabolic syndrome.

Liver disease

5 / 9 Liver disease

Inflammation from psoriasis can also damage the liver. Psoriasis is associated with a potentially life-threatening condition called nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NFLD). With NFLD, triglycerides (blood fats) accumulate in the cells of the liver, leading to damage and scarring. Over time, the buildup of scar tissue in the liver can lead to fibrosis and eventually cirrhosis of the liver. With cirrhosis, there is not enough healthy tissue for the liver to function properly, which leads to liver failure.

Psoriatic arthritis

6 / 9 Psoriatic arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis is a type of arthritis that occurs in an estimated 20 to 30 percent of people who have psoriasis. With psoriatic arthritis, also called PsA, inflammation targets the joints, causing stiffness, pain, swelling and tenderness. Over time, the damage caused by this inflammation can cause the joints to become immobile and deformed. Any joints in the body can be affected—fingers, wrists, elbows, knees, even the spine.

Sleep disorders

7 / 9 Sleep disorders

Itching, pain and the stress of psoriasis can keep you up at night. Psoriasis is associated with several major sleep disorders, including insomnia, restless leg syndrome and obstructive sleep apnea, a disorder in which the upper airways close during sleep. Sleep deprivation can disrupt your life in a number of other ways—it increases your risk of illness, increases cravings for unhealthy foods, impacts your job performance, takes a toll on relationships and even increases your risk of having an accident.

Mental health

8 / 9 Mental health

Anxiety and depression are common among people who have psoriasis. Research shows that some of this may stem from the stigma attached to the skin disorder, and the feelings of low-self esteem, mental distress and frustration that can occur when symptoms are difficult to manage. Other research points to the same factor that puts patients at risk for many other conditions on this list—inflammation, which can affect the brain and exacerbate mental health symptoms.

Reducing your risk

9 / 9 Reducing your risk

If you have psoriasis, it is important that you work with your healthcare provider to monitor your risk for the conditions discussed here. There are also a number of steps you can take to reduce your risk of the long-term effects the condition can have on your health.

While having psoriasis may increase your risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic disorder and liver disease, lifestyle factors still play a major role in the development of those conditions. Data shows that people with psoriasis are more likely to smoke, drink more often and are less likely to exercise, all of which likely contribute to the higher prevalence of these conditions among people with psoriasis. Taking care of yourself through a healthy diet, regular exercise and by eliminating bad habits like cigarette smoking, alcohol and junk food will help reduce your risk of many major health problems.

For depression, anxiety and other mental health issues, it’s important to seek treatment. Counseling and therapy are effective treatments for anxiety and depression, and can also help you manage the range of emotions that anyone with psoriasis will experience. If you are struggling with sleep, talk to your healthcare provider about this symptom.

Finally, work with a healthcare provider to find a treatment that works for you. More severe psoriasis symptoms are also associated with an increased risk of comorbidities. In addition to helping you achieve clearer skin, a treatment plan may also help you reduce your risk of some of these long-term health effects of psoriasis.

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