The Impact of Psoriasis on Physical and Mental Health

This common skin disorder may have much more serious implications for affected individuals, including an increased risk for cardiovascular problems and an increased risk of death.

At the 68th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology AAD), Alan Menter, MD, FAAD, discussed the growing body of evidence showing that psoriasis has implications far beyond skin problems and is associated with other serious medical conditions like cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, and even increased mortality.

Menter, a dermatologist and chair of the Psoriasis Research Unit at Baylor Research Institute in Dallas, discussed the need for psoriasis to be seen in a much more serious light. Research in recent years has shown that psoriasis is associated with a host of other medical problems. Menter referenced several studies, including one that showed that, among 3,236 patients with psoriasis and 2,500 patients without psoriasis, the patients with the skin disease “experienced an increased incidence of ischemic heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, and peripheral vascular disease.” Another study revealed that patients with severe psoriasis may actually have shorter life expectancies “by an average of three to five years” compared with patients without the skin condition.

In addition to its serious impact on physical health, psoriasis may also have a negative role on mental health and behavior. At the AAD meeting, Menter explained that “the constant presence of psoriatic lesions or unexpected flare-ups — at times when patients least expect it – can cause a considerable amount of stress and anxiety.” He also said that recent studies have shown that newer biologic medications such as adalimumab, etanercept and infliximab may provide significant relief for patients with psoriasis who are also suffering from mental and behavioral problems.

Menter encouraged fellow dermatologists to be aware of the impact that psoriasis can have on many other aspects of a patient’s health. “It is important to note that while we are unsure whether psoriasis causes other diseases or that these other diseases cause psoriasis, the fact that an association exists at all is critically important in treating psoriasis patients,” he said. “We cannot underestimate the complexity of psoriasis, particularly the psychological impact the disease can have on young people.”