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How Is Type 2 Diabetes Linked To Psoriasis?

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: July 2016.

People with psoriasis, which is an autoimmune condition causing symptoms on the skin, have an increased risk of developing certain other health conditions. One of those conditions, type 2 diabetes (T2D) causes the amount of sugar (glucose) in the blood to become too high1. T2D affects the pancreas, which is an organ in the body located near the stomach that produces a substance called insulin. When a person consumes glucose in a food or drink, insulin helps to transform that glucose into energy that the body can use for fuel.

In people with T2D, the pancreas either2:

  • Does not make enough insulin naturally to process the glucose, or
  • Produces insulin that does not work effectively or in the right way

This causes a buildup of glucose in the bloodstream, which in turn causes a range of symptoms as well as other problems in different systems of the body.

How common is T2D among people with plaque psoriasis?

Research has shown that people with psoriasis are more likely to develop T2D than people without psoriasis. For people with mild psoriasis, the risk is around 17% higher. For people with moderate to severe psoriasis, the risk is higher--around 30%4.

Because of this risk, healthcare providers will screen patients with psoriasis for signs and symptoms of T2D5. Screenings are particularly advised for patients who are over the age of 40, and for those who have more severe psoriasis symptoms6.

How is T2D linked to plaque psoriasis?

Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition in which inflammation in the body causes symptoms on the skin. Researchers believe that this chronic, long-lasting inflammation is related to the increased risk of developing T2D5.

Obesity (being very overweight) is one of the main risk factors for developing T2D. People with psoriasis are also more likely to be obese6. There is evidence suggesting that in some families, there may be a common genetic link between psoriasis, obesity, and the tendency to develop T2D7.

What are the symptoms of T2D?

Healthcare providers make a diagnosis of T2D by testing the level of glucose in the patient’s blood, and by asking the patient about any symptoms they may be experiencing that are signs of T2D1. These include2:

  • Feeling thirsty frequently
  • Urinating frequently
  • Feeling hungry
  • Tiredness
  • Blurred vision
  • Weight loss
  • Dry mouth
  • Yeast infections and/or itchy skin, particularly in the groin area
  • Sores and cuts that heal more slowly than usual

How is T2D treated?

Treatment for T2D has several aims1:

  • Controlling the level of glucose in your blood (also called blood sugar) to prevent it from getting too high or too low
  • Controlling the level of cholesterol and fat in your blood
  • Controlling your blood pressure

It is important to treat T2D, because the condition can cause serious complications over time if it is left untreated. While there is no cure for T2D, it can be controlled very effectively. In fact, many people with T2D find that they are able to control the level of glucose in their blood effectively with improved diet and regular exercise. If the patient is overweight, healthcare providers may recommend weight loss strategies. Losing weight can make the insulin the body produces work more efficiently3.

If lifestyle changes are not effective enough in treating T2D, then the patient may need to try treatment with medication containing insulin (or an insulin-like product made in a lab) to supplement the body’s natural production4.

A recent study found that some patients had improvements in their psoriasis symptoms when they took a certain type of drug for their T2D called a glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) agonist. Researchers think that this drug may help reduce the amount of inflammation in the patient’s entire body, thus improving both psoriasis symptoms and T2D symptoms that inflammation causes6.

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