How Does Psoriasis Affect Your Overall Health?
Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: July 2016. | Last updated: September 2019
Psoriasis is a chronic health condition that can have significant long-term health impact that goes beyond the most visible symptoms on the skin. Because psoriasis is an autoimmune disease, people living with psoriasis are prone to a number of other complications and other health conditions (comorbidities).
Living with an autoimmune disease
People with an autoimmune disease can have a complex set of symptoms that complicate both diagnosis and treatment options. Autoimmune disease can also mean people will have periods when symptoms get significantly worse, or flare-ups, and periods of remission, when symptoms significantly lessen or seem to disappear. While treatment options depend on the disease, one of the most important treatment goals is to target the specific inflammatory pathway believed to be most important to the disease symptoms and severity.
Recently new treatment options for psoriasis have been developed that target specific parts of the immune system known as inflammatory pathways. These medications are called biologics and can be an important part of a treatment plan for people with moderate to severe plaque psoriasis.
Getting diagnosed and assembling your healthcare team
Depending on how severe the psoriasis is, people with psoriasis may need to be treated by certain types of healthcare providers who specialize in autoimmune and/or skin conditions. Key members of a psoriasis patient’s healthcare team may include:
- Primary care physician
Living with psoriasis can have a significant impact on a person’s life, both physically and emotionally. It is important for your health to assemble a team of healthcare providers that are informed of your health condition to ensure you are aware of and receive the best treatment options.
Psoriatic arthritis is a leading complication
Psoriatic arthritis is a condition that affects many people who have psoriasis with skin symptoms. Research estimates that about 30% of people with plaque psoriasis will go on to develop symptoms of psoriatic arthritis at some point. Like psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis is an autoimmune condition with symptoms that are caused by inflammation. Both conditions are also chronic, meaning that they are lifelong conditions, even though symptoms may come and go over time.
Related health conditions
Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition in which symptoms are caused by chronic levels of inflammation in the body. While many of the visible symptoms of psoriasis are to the skin, the inflammatory processes involved in psoriasis can cause damage to other parts of the body as well. People who have psoriasis tend to have a higher risk of developing certain other types of health conditions, called comorbidities, many of which are also linked to inflammation in some way.
Research has identified the risk of people with psoriasis developing one or more comorbidities. These conditions include:
- Heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Obesity and metabolic syndrome
- Inflammatory bowel disease (including Crohn’s)
Food and diet considerations
Researchers have not found a direct link between diet and psoriasis, and there is no specific diet that will cure psoriasis. However, some people with psoriasis find that dietary changes can improve their overall health and have a positive impact on their symptoms. Research is beginning to show that diet and food choices can have an important impact on reducing some forms of chronic inflammation.
It is important to talk with your healthcare provider before making dietary changes, particularly any involving vitamins, herbs, and dietary supplements, to make sure that medications you are taking will not be affected.