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Other health factors responsible for the rising tide of psoriasis

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The skin condition psoriasis is on the increase but it is only recently that studies into the condition have begun to find links with other health conditions that might explain why this may be.

BY Amy Anderson 5 July, 2007

In preparation for World Psoriasis Day in October, the International Psoriasis Council’s (IPC) have highlighted new health factors that can be linked to the alarming rise of the skin condition psoriasis.

At the 15th European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, the IPC highlighted several new research studies that have linked psoriasis to other health conditions including obesity, cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes and liver disease and as a result the IPC has called for great attention by doctors to be given to people suffering from this often underestimated inflammatory skin condition.

Among the data presented at the meeting was a statistical study of over 10,000 patients in clinical trials conducted over the past five years, showing that psoriasis patients are more likely to have body mass index (BMI) measurements in the overweight and obese ranges.

Important data indicating an increased risk of cardiovascular disease was also presented for the first time at the meeting. A large study by Dr Joel Gelfand of the University of Pennsylvania, recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, highlighted that psoriasis may be an independent risk factor for heart attack, particularly in young individuals with severe disease.

Other studies presented at the meeting indicated that patients suffer from their skin disease much more than previously understood. One trial showed that almost half of 1,000 psoriasis patients tested were likely to be clinically depressed, and another demonstrated an increased tendency to use alcohol and tobacco among psoriasis patients.

Another more widely know contributing factor to the risk of getting psoriasis is smoking. The link between psoriasis and smoking was first noted in 1985 when researchers drew a link between smoking habits and palmoplantar pustular psoriasis. Other studies have suggested that smoking might be an important risk factor for chronic plaque psoriasis as well.
Around 30% of adults smoke, so about a quarter of all cases of psoriasis could have been precipitated by smoking. For palmoplantar pustular psoriasis, estimates suggest that as much as half of the cases could be related to smoking. Smoking might possibly be more important for initiating psoriasis in women (K Poikolainen, personal communication, 1993), whereas alcohol might be more important in men.

A more recent study has established a link between diabetes and an increased risk of psoriasis. The study, published in the April issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, found a higher occurrence of diabetes and atherosclerosis in psoriasis patients compared to patients without psoriasis. Specifically, the researchers found that the association between diabetes and psoriasis was more common in women compared to men and in patients between the ages of 35 and 55. More worryingly, the study also established a link between diabetes and the overuse of extremely potent topical steroids or certain systemic medications for psoriasis. The researchers have yet to discover a cause for the link between the two conditions.

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