Psoriasis patients have enough to worry about with itchy red rashes and dry, scaly skin. Unfortunately, these symptoms are often just the tip of the health iceberg. This inflammatory autoimmune condition can indicate much more serious systemic diseases that lurk below the surface.
Metabolic Syndrome More Likely in Psoriasis Sufferers
According to one study of 6500 participants, psoriasis patients are twice as likely as the rest of the population to have a condition called metabolic syndrome. Individuals with this syndrome tend to have the following risk factors:
- High blood pressure (with a systolic number in the hypertension range)
- High body weight (especially fat accumulation around the waist)
- Insulin resistance (indicated by high fasting levels of glucose in the blood)
- High triglycerides in the blood and low “good” cholesterol (HDL). It appears that psoriasis interferes with the ability of HDL to perform its function of transporting excess cholesterol through the blood stream to the liver for disposal.
This cluster of symptoms is linked to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and other life threatening health conditions. The interesting thing about the risk factors listed above is that they are all linked in some way to chronic inflammation of various body systems. It’s possible that there’s some underlying issue that gives rise to both psoriasis and metabolic syndrome.
From the information available so far, it appears that psoriasis patients with more severe skin symptoms are at the highest risk for developing metabolic syndrome. At this point, it’s unclear whether treating psoriasis lowers the risk for metabolic syndrome (or vice versa). That’s certainly going to be the focus of future research in the field of dermatology.
What Can Psoriasis Patients Do?
Check your history. Just like psoriasis itself, these other disease conditions have a genetic component. If you have family members with one or more of the metabolic syndrome risks listed above, you will want to monitor these aspects of your own health even more carefully. That way, you can get treatment before your system is permanently damaged by unchecked disease progression.
Stay as healthy as you can. Your risk for most of the diseases linked to psoriasis can be limited to some extent by healthy lifestyle choices. Take good care of yourself by:
- Eating a nutritious diet and staying well hydrated
- Being active and exercising regularly
- Maintaining a healthy body weight
- Limiting smoking and drinking
- Getting plenty of rest and relaxation to keep stress levels low
It’s important to communicate and coordinate care with both your dermatologist and your primary care physician. This way, any new symptoms you experience can be evaluated to see if they indicate a potentially serious health problem.