Trust Me, Psoriasis Is Not Just a Dry Skin Disease
Last updated: October 2021
I have had severe psoriasis my whole life. Every time I go to the doctor, it seems like I get a new diagnosis for yet another condition. I have learned to live with the widespread inflammation on my skin and what could be happening inside my body.
Psoriasis is not merely a skin disease. It's a multi-system inflammatory disease with negative implications for our overall health.1 My point here is I'd like to share this information. It's important for us to be knowledgeable and informed about what can happen to our bodies while living with psoriasis.
Understanding the comorbidities of psoriasis
Psoriasis shows up in the skin and nails — but immune system abnormalities cause the disease, and they can damage other parts of the body as well. The reality is of having psoriasis is that it brings about a lot of other serious health complications including but not limited to psoriatic arthritis, cancer, heart disease, and lung disease.
Up to 25% of patients with psoriasis develop joint inflammation. In some cases, psoriatic arthritis can precede skin involvement. There is a strong link between nail psoriasis and arthritis, and some arthritis patients have nail disease without any skin inflammation.
Psoriatic arthritis can strike the small joints of the fingers, one or two larger joints elsewhere in the body, or the spine. It is a painful, chronic inflammatory arthritis, but tests for rheumatoid arthritis and other forms of autoimmune arthritis are negative.1
The JAMA Dermatology study focused on data from previous studies analyzed between April 9, 2018, and February 22, 2019.2 The researchers found that people with psoriasis had an increased risk of developing cancers including colon, kidney, laryngeal, liver, lymphoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, esophageal, oral, and pancreatic cancers.
You should also work with your primary care physician to stay up to date with routine cancer screenings, such as colonoscopies, mammograms, and lung imaging. Further studies are needed to determine the specific mechanisms underlying the potential link between psoriasis and increased cancer risk, as well as how specific lifestyle factors and medications may play a role.
Insulin controls the amount of sugar in the blood sugar levels to rise. Psoriasis can play a role in insulin resistance. And guess what? This leads to metabolic syndrome which brings about all these conditions, which I have including high blood sugar levels and high blood pressure.
The risk of cardiovascular complications is highest in patients with severe psoriasis that developed at a relatively young age. The association remains valid even after scientists account for risk factors that are common to both psoriasis and heart disease, such as smoking, obesity, and stress.1
Psoriasis and the lungs
Psoriasis causes our immune system to overreact and messes with our white blood cells. This is what causes our body to produce skin inflammation. Unfortunately, this inflammation can affect internal organs like our lungs.
Psoriasis has also been linked to other pulmonary diseases such as, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). In 2015, research confirmed that there was a link between COPD and psoriasis3. People who suffer from severe psoriasis are more susceptible to contracting COPD.
Prioritizing our overall health
No one knows why people with psoriasis are at a greater risk for these kinds of comorbidities. I have decided to leave my body to science. You never know what they might find out in the name of psoriasis. It seems we are still at high risk for certain things no matter what our lifestyle is.
Though it's important to remember, quitting smoking, drinking less alcohol, eating a healthier, well-balanced diet, and moderate physical activity can benefit can reduce risks and benefit our overall health.
Are you recently diagnosed with psoriasis?