Psoriasis and Heart Disease: What You Need to Know
Psoriasis is an immune-mediated condition that often shows up on the skin in the form of dry, scaly patches, although depending on the type of psoriasis, there may also be other visible symptoms. Because these skin and nail symptoms are the most obvious, psoriasis is often misunderstood, misdiagnosed, and undertreated. However, it can also put those who have it at a greater risk for heart disease, arthritis, and depression.
Fortunately, there have been exciting advancements in the way we are able to treat psoriasis, sometimes even allowing for 100 percent clearance. Read on to learn more about the different types of psoriasis and the new treatment options that you may want to talk to your doctor about.
Types of Psoriasis
Psoriasis happens when your body’s immune system mistakenly signals your skin to produce skin cells too rapidly, which then build up on the surface of your skin and form dry, flaky patches. Because this is an immune-related disease, psoriasis is not contagious (American Academy of Dermatology).
There are five different types of psoriasis, and a person may have symptoms of one or more of the following:
- Plaque: Plaque psoriasis is the most common type and is characterized by dry, scaly patches of skin that may be itchy and painful.
- Guttate: Characterized by small dot-like lesions, guttate psoriasis is the second most common type and usually starts in childhood.
- Inverse: Inverse psoriasis appears on the skin as large red patches in areas like the armpits, behind the knees, and around the groin. Most people with this type also have symptoms of another type of psoriasis.
- Pustular: This type typically occurs on the hands and feet and is characterized by small white pustules, or non-infectious blisters.
- Erythrodermic: Only about three percent of people with psoriasis have erythrodermic psoriasis, and this type is the most severe. It can cause itchy and painful redness all over the body, and often occurs when plaque psoriasis is unstable and left unmanaged (National Psoriasis Foundation).
More Than Skin Deep
Although the symptoms of each of the five types of psoriasis are quite visible on the skin and nails, these are not the only health concerns for those with this condition. One important study found a link between the severity of psoriasis and increased risk of aortic inflammation, which is a precursor to atherosclerosis (Dermatology Times). This condition is caused by plaque buildup along artery walls, which creates a narrowed channel through which blood can flow. Thus, atherosclerosis can lead to serious medical concerns like heart attack and stroke (National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute).
In addition to an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, psoriasis can also lead to a particular type of arthritis known as psoriatic arthritis, or PSA, as well as metabolic syndrome, depression and a lowered quality of life. For this reason, it’s important that physicians take a comprehensive approach to treating psoriasis and better managing its symptoms.
Cutting-Edge Psoriasis Medications
In the past, various topical treatments like steroid ointments, vitamin C creams, and light treatments have been used to help improve psoriasis symptoms, but these tend to be messy or time-consuming. Other options, like methotrexate and oral steroids came along with horrible side effects, making those options undesirable as well.
In the past decade, however, psoriasis treatment has dramatically changed, and many cutting-edge medications have been developed to help treat the underlying immune system defects, rather than just address superficial skin symptoms. The four main categories of these drugs are:
- IL-17 inhibitors- these include Taltz (ixekizumab) and Cosentyx (secukinumab)
- Anti-TNF- these include Humira (adalimumab) and Enbrel (etanercept)
- IL-12 and IL-23 inhibitors- Stelara (ustekinumab)
- Phosphodiesterase inhibitor- Otezla (apremilast)
If you have psoriasis, it’s crucial that you see a dermatologist who specializes in this condition and has experience properly treating it. Dr. Brian Morrison MD is a Voluntary Assistant Professor at the University of Miami, where he teaches medical residents about these new psoriasis treatments. According to Morrison, “Psoriasis is far more treatable than in the past, with numerous great options that can result in almost 100 percent of clearance.”
Your dermatologist can accurately assess your skin and underlying psoriasis symptoms to custom-tailor a treatment approach that will make the most sense for you. Because psoriasis is much more than a dry skin condition, don’t let it go untreated, especially with so many advanced medications now available.
Dr. Leslie Baumann, M.D. and her team at Baumann Cosmetic Dermatology believe in proof, not promises. World-recognized for both cosmetic and general dermatology, our treatment strategies rely exclusively on evidence-based, scientifically verified products and procedures that promote skin health and a natural appearance. We combine effective medical procedures with individualized instruction on proper skincare, nutrition, supplementation and lifestyle in order to maximize the health of the skin and body as a whole while minimizing the effects of aging. For more, visit Dr. Baumann’s blog for daily updates Monday through Friday, or inquire about an appointment through Derm.net.