When people think of psoriasis, they may assume that it’s just a skin condition, since most of its symptoms are visible to the naked eye. In actuality, psoriasis starts from the inside and moves outward.
Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune disease that’s due to faulty signals from the immune system, causing a person’s skin cells to grow too quickly (forming in a few days rather than weeks). The body doesn’t shed these cells, so they pile up on the surface of the skin, which causes patches of psoriasis to appear.
Because psoriasis starts from within, it can affect the body in a multitude of ways. This increases a psoriasis patient’s risk of developing other health conditions.
These are the secondary health conditions that may develop if you have psoriasis, and what you can do to decrease your risk.
Psoriatic Arthritis + Psoriasis
If you have psoriasis, you may already know that you’re at an increased risk of developing psoriatic arthritis (PsA), an inflammatory arthritis that causes joint pain, swelling, and stiffness. About 30 percent of people who have psoriasis eventually get PsA, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF).
If you are concerned that your skin issues, pain, or other symptoms could be psoriatic arthritis, talk to your doctor. Early diagnosis and treatment will help prevent permanent joint damage and reduce the effect the PsA has on your life.
Cancer + Psoriasis
Studies have shown that people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis have an increased risk of certain types of cancer, including lymphoma and nonmelanoma skin cancer. People with psoriasis should talk to their doctor about incorporating regular cancer screenings into their treatment plan.
Heart Disease + Psoriasis
People with severe psoriasis have a significantly higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease than those without. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, patients with severe psoriasis are 58 percent more likely to have a major cardiac event, such as a heart attack, and 43 percent more likely to have a stroke. Here are the signs your chest pain could be a heart attack and here are the symptoms of a stroke.
How can you lower your risk of heart attack or stroke? Follow your treatment plan and talk to your doctor about your cardiovascular risk.
Depression + Psoriasis
Psoriasis can cause significant emotional distress, including low self-esteem, and an increased chance of mood disorders, such as depression. In fact, people with psoriasis have a 39 percent higher risk of being diagnosed with depression than people without psoriasis, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation. (Learn more about the symptoms of depression.)
“Psoriasis has a profound effect on a patient’s quality of life,” says Suzanne Friedler, MD, a dermatologist in New York City. “Patients with psoriasis do tend to be more depressed and do tend to avoid social encounters than an average patient.”
Inflammatory Bowel Disease + Psoriasis
Having psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis may increase your chances of developing an inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis. Both psoriasis and inflammatory bowel disease are associated with chronic inflammation in the body, so it’s no surprise that having one increases the risk of having the other.
Talk to your doctor if you have symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease, such as diarrhea, abdominal cramping, or bloody stools.
Diabetes + Psoriasis
People with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis are at an increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes. People with severe psoriasis, in particular, are 30 percent more likely to have type 2 diabetes, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation. If you have symptoms of type 2 diabetes, such as increased thirst, blurred vision, or fatigue, tell your doctor.
Controlling your psoriasis may not only help lessen the severity of your symptoms, but it can also help reduce your risk of developing these conditions.
Even though psoriasis can’t be cured, there are plenty of lifestyle adjustments that help psoriasis symptoms—such as eating a psoriasis-friendly diet, relieving stress, and avoiding habits that can cause psoriasis flare-ups. Additionally, there are many psoriasis medications available that may help clear your skin and significantly improve your quality of life and health.