Severe Psoriasis Linked to Increased Heart Disease Risk

Alex Rodriguez

Written by Alex Rodriguez


Approximately 125 million people globally live with psoriasis, an immune-mediated condition primarily known for its skin manifestations. However, the reach of psoriasis extends beyond the skin, potentially affecting internal organs and increasing the risk of heart disease. Despite the known association between psoriasis and increased cardiovascular risks, the exact mechanisms at play remain elusive.

The inflammation characteristic of psoriasis is a significant contributor to cardiovascular risks, which can lead to heart attack, stroke, and mortality. Importantly, this increased risk persists even when traditional factors like smoking and diabetes are accounted for. It is crucial to note that cardiovascular risks associated with psoriasis are often underrecognized and hence, undertreated.

Investigations into Psoriasis and Cardiovascular Disease

Recent studies, such as those published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, are delving deeper into the connections between psoriasis and heart disease. One area of focus is the role of coronary microvascular dysfunction (CMD). CMD, which affects the tiny blood vessels that supply the heart muscle, can lead to the growth of blood vessel plaque and atherosclerosis. Although CMD is related to coronary artery disease, it might play a distinct role in the development of vascular disease.

Research utilizing coronary flow reserve measurements has discovered that a significant portion of psoriasis patients exhibit CMD without the presence of coronary artery disease. Factors like older age, higher body mass index (BMI), hypertension, and severe or long-standing psoriasis are tied to an elevated risk of CMD in these patients. Furthermore, CMD is common in other inflammatory conditions, reinforcing the hypothesis that systemic inflammation is a primary driver of CMD.

Lower coronary flow reserves have been associated with worse cardiovascular outcomes, suggesting that managing psoriasis effectively could mitigate levels of CMD and, by extension, heart disease risk. With this in mind, researchers, including Dr. Joel Gelfand of the University of Pennsylvania, are actively exploring improved methods for cardiovascular risk assessment and management in psoriasis patients.

Treating Psoriasis to Reduce Heart Risk

Treatment strategies for psoriasis may have the potential to reduce the risk of heart disease. Medications that target inflammation could play a role in lowering cardiovascular risk, though the evidence regarding TNF inhibitors’ effects on this risk is not yet conclusive. Moreover, achieving better control of psoriasis symptoms can encourage patients to adopt healthier lifestyles, which also contributes to a reduced risk of cardiovascular issues.

Advancements in scanning and diagnostic technologies may enhance the precision of cardiac risk assessments in psoriasis patients. Understanding that psoriasis is associated with abnormalities in lipid function and tryptophan metabolism, both of which can influence cardiovascular disease, could lead to broader insights into how treating psoriasis can impact overall heart health.

The connection between psoriasis and heart disease underscores the importance of early intervention and effective treatment of psoriasis. By addressing the skin condition promptly, the possibility of reducing the risk of cardiovascular events becomes more attainable.

Looking to the Future

The relationship between psoriasis and cardiovascular disease presents a compelling area of study, with new insights continually emerging. As researchers like Gelfand and his team press forward, the hope is to uncover more about the underlying mechanisms and develop targeted strategies to safeguard the heart health of those living with psoriasis. Such advancements could significantly alter the approach to treatment and management of psoriasis, with the dual goal of alleviating skin symptoms and preventing heart disease.

Ultimately, recognizing the interconnected nature of psoriasis and cardiovascular health is a step towards comprehensive care that addresses not just the visible symptoms of the condition but its systemic implications as well. With continued research and awareness, the future for psoriasis patients looks increasingly heart-healthy.