Study Links Increased Risk Of Death To Severe Psoriasis
A study showing that people with severe psoriasis are likely to have a shorter life expectancy should prompt them to take steps to improve their overall health, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation.
The study -- published in the Archives of Dermatology and conducted by Joel M. Gelfand, M.D., M.S.C.E., and colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine -- showed that risk of death increased by 50 percent among patients with severe psoriasis.
Men with severe psoriasis died an average of 3.5 years sooner than male patients without the disease, the study showed. Women died an average of 4.4 years earlier than women without the condition. Mild psoriasis did not show an association with an increased risk of death. The study, which tracked patients in the United Kingdom from 1987 to 2002, defined people as having severe psoriasis if they were using systemic treatments. The study was done before the systemic treatments known as biologics were available for psoriasis or a related condition, psoriatic arthritis. Today, biologics are widely used to treat moderate to severe psoriasis.
The researchers do not know why patients with severe psoriasis have an increased risk of death, said Dr. Gelfand, a member of the National Psoriasis Foundation Medical Board. More research is needed to determine if severe psoriasis is a direct cause of a shorter life span or if factors associated with severe psoriasis such as smoking, drinking, obesity or social isolation are the cause. Researchers also are looking to see if certain treatments affect life expectancy.
"In the meantime, patients suffering with severe psoriasis are encouraged to lead a healthy lifestyle and to see their physicians for preventative health screenings and treatments as necessary," Dr. Gelfand said.
Working for a cure
The National Psoriasis Foundation joins Dr. Gelfand in urging psoriasis patients to be aware of the study's results and to take control of their health.
"Besides getting a comprehensive exam from their doctors, patients should consider making lifestyle changes such as losing weight, exercising more, quitting smoking, reducing high blood pressure, controlling cholesterol and managing diabetes," said National Psoriasis Foundation Chief Operating Officer Pam Field.
"This study emphasizes the important message that psoriasis is a serious disease and not just a cosmetic skin condition," Field said. "The National Psoriasis Foundation is working to help psoriasis patients improve their quality of life and to support research that will lead to better treatments and a cure."
The National Psoriasis Victor Henschel BioBank, for example, was established by the Psoriasis Foundation to collect DNA samples that researchers can use to identify the genes that cause psoriasis and a related condition, psoriatic arthritis.
The Foundation also is working to increase government funding for psoriasis research through initiatives such as the Psoriasis Action Network, which involves supporters in contacting members of Congress about the need for more government support for psoriasis research.
"We encourage people to help us work toward a cure by taking part in the BioBank, joining the Action Network and supporting other efforts to boost psoriasis research," Field said. "The more we know about this life-altering disease, the faster we will find a cure."
Psoriasis is a genetic, life-altering disease that results when faulty signals in the immune system prompt skin cells to regenerate too quickly, causing red, scaly lesions that can itch, crack and bleed. As many as 7.5 million Americans have psoriasis, according to the National Institutes of Health. Ten percent to 30 percent of people with psoriasis also develop psoriatic arthritis, an inflammatory disease which causes pain, stiffness and swelling in and around the joints. There is no cure yet for this lifelong disease.