A comorbid condition is a disease or condition that occurs with a primary disease. Diabetes or heart disease are comorbidities often seen with arthritis, for example.
On the dermatological side of things, recent research shows that having psoriasis increases your chance of developing high blood pressure, or hypertension, and eventually heart disease down the road. Though doctors don’t completely understand the link between these comorbid conditions, chronic inflammation is thought to be a possible cause.
The Psoriasis-Hypertension Link
A recent study funded in part through the National Psoriasis Foundation found that the chance of developing uncontrolled blood pressure increases in those with severe psoriasis. In the study, “uncontrolled” blood pressure was defined as a systolic of 140 or higher and a diastolic of 90 or higher, and “severe” psoriasis was defined as psoriasis affecting more than 10% of an individual’s body surface area.
The study found that those with severe psoriasis were 48% more likely to have hypertension. People with moderate psoriasis — defined as affecting 3–10% of an individual’s body surface area — were 20% more likely to have uncontrolled blood pressure than people without psoriasis.
The verdict: If you have moderate or severe psoriasis, you need to monitor and manage your blood pressure.
Chronic inflammation could be responsible, at least in part. Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune inflammatory condition that causes the skin to become red, inflamed and bumpy. Research shows that people with psoriasis have inflammation throughout their bodies, which increases their risk for other serious health problems and comorbid conditions.
Simply put, psoriasis is more than just a skin disease. It’s a widespread inflammatory condition with common comorbid instances of arthritis, diabetes and depression in addition to cardiovascular disease. About 20–30% of people with psoriasis develop a condition called psoriatic arthritis. Severe psoriasis increases the risk of diabetes by 46%, and almost 25% of people with psoriasis also suffer from depression at some point in their lives.
Chronic inflammation of the blood vessels is also thought to contribute to not only high blood pressure, but also heart disease and stroke.
Treatment Options for Psoriasis
Psoriasis is a disease that affects more than 6 million men and women in the United States; it's characterized by dry, scaly flakes on the skin.
This condition occurs when the immune system mistakes healthy skin cells for a virus or other infection and responds by producing excess skin cells. As skin cells grow and then shed, they collect on the skin’s surface and cause crusty, silvery patches to form that can itch and burn. The disease goes through cycles of improving and worsening called “flares.”
There are many treatment options for psoriasis designed to lesson your symptoms and clear the skin’s appearance. Typically, treatment begins with a mild topical cream to soothe inflammation and slow skin growth and progresses to more powerful treatments if needed, including oral or injected medications and phototherapy, which uses ultraviolet light to slow the growth of cells.
Helpful Tips to Prevent Psoriasis
Triggers for psoriasis include stress, anxiety, infections, hormonal changes or even injuries to the skin. Some medications such as lithium and beta blockers can also trigger a psoriasis flare-up. In some cases, genetics are thought to play a role, as individuals with a parent who has psoriasis are 15% more likely to develop the disease.
Though there is evidence that psoriasis and hypertension are linked comorbid conditions, it is still unknown if controlling the symptoms of psoriasis also will improve your overall cardiovascular health.
However, many of the same lifestyle choices you can make to reduce the risk of high blood pressure — not smoking, eating a healthier diet, maintaining a healthy body weight, regular exercise and limiting alcohol intake — can also be good for your psoriasis.
Obesity can make psoriasis symptoms worse. Reducing your stress and eating a healthy diet will help reduce inflammation in the body, which will ultimately lead to fewer flare-ups and improve your chances of avoiding cardiovascular disease.
If you have moderate to severe psoriasis, always let your primary care doctor know, as you may be at risk for hypertension and other chronic conditions. Monitor your cardiac risk factors such as blood pressure, cholesterol and inflammation and see your dermatologist to maintain control of your psoriasis.
To learn more about the link between psoriasis and hypertension and the various treatment options available to improve your psoriasis symptoms, contact a board-certified dermatologist at U.S. Dermatology Partners today.