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02-02-2012 | Article

Psoriasis patients face heart risk


Free abstract

MedWire News: People with the skin condition psoriasis may face an increased risk for developing heart disease, scientists believe.

By contrast, people with another skin condition, dermatitis, have no such increased risk.

"The main question that arises from our results and needs further explanation is why there is a difference between psoriasis and dermatitis, both inflammatory skin diseases, with regard to associated [diseases]," say study authors Dr Michael David (Tel Aviv University, Israel) and colleagues.

Dr David's team compared the "cardiovascular risk profiles" - in other words, the frequency of different characteristics that can predispose people to heart disease - in over 1000 patients with psoriasis and the same number of people with dermatitis.

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that arises when the body's natural defence mechanism goes awry. Typical symptoms include flaking, scaling, redness, and itching of the skin.

Dermatitis is an "umbrella" term for inflammation of the skin and can have various causes, from contact with irritating or noxious substances to allergic reactions and eczema.

Dr David's team found that patients with psoriasis were much more likely than patients with dermatitis to be obese, to smoke cigarettes, and to have diabetes, high blood pressure, or raised blood cholesterol.

Each of these five factors is known to predispose people to developing heart disease - a condition in which the blood vessels to the heart become clogged up, potentially causing a heart attack.

The researchers say more research is now needed to understand the link between psoriasis and cardiovascular risk factor in greater detail. One likely explanation is that psoriasis causes widespread inflammation throughout the body, which in turn could boost the risks for diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

It will also be crucial to develop strategies to help people with psoriasis to protect their hearts and avoid the potentially fatal consequences of heart disease, they say.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Joanna Lyford