Undiagnosed Psoriasis Cases Put Lives At Risk

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
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Armed with research concluding that psoriasis is associated with an increased risk of heart attacks and other cardiovascular conditions, Joel M. Gelfand, MD, MSCE, Assistant Professor of Dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and colleagues released an editorial consensus in the American Journal of Cardiology today, calling for psoriasis patients to be educated about and screened for cardiovascular risk factors.

Dr. Gelfand’s latest research estimates that, in addition to the seven million Americans adults diagnosed with psoriasis, as many as 3.6 million Americans are living with active, undiagnosed psoriasis, unaware of the associated cardiovascular risk.

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Dr. Gelfand’s previously published research, a focal point of the AJC consensus advisory, showed that patients with psoriasis have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attacks, particularly if their psoriasis is moderate to severe. In the largest study of nonhospitalized patients with psoriasis and coronary artery disease to date, where more than 130,000 patients were tracked for 5.4 years, Gelfand et al determined that psoriasis is an independent risk factor for a heart attack. Other research shows that hypertension, diabetes, elevated cholesterol, and obesity are also more common in patients with psoriasis than in the general population.

“Psoriasis patients, particularly those with severe disease, should be educated about their increased risk of blocked arteries and heart attacks, screened for major cardiovascular risk factors -- such as elevated blood pressure or cholesterol -- and treated for modifiable cardiovascular risk factors,” recommends Dr. Gelfand. “Psoriasis patients are encouraged to make lifestyle adjustments that will improve their overall cardiovascular health.”

In a separate article, published online in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Dr. Gelfand and University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine doctoral candidate Shanu Kohli Kurd, MHS, estimated that 600,000 to 3.6 million Americans are living with undiagnosed active psoriasis. A disparity was found as well – undiagnosed patients were more likely to be male, nonwhite, less educated and unmarried, compared to diagnosed patients.

“Given the serious medical conditions often associated with psoriasis, including metabolic disorders and cardiovascular disease, it is very important for people with a persistent rash to seek medical attention, especially if the rash is quite extensive,” said Dr. Gelfand.

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