Psoriasis May Up Risk of Heart Attack
Researchers Say Elevated Risk Especially Seen in Younger Patients With Severe Psoriasis
Oct. 10, 2006 --
Psoriasis -- a chronic skin condition that affects 2%-3% of adults -- may
also be a risk factor for heart attack.
"In patients under age 50 with severe disease, the risk is comparable to
diabetesdiabetes. This is the first study to show
this," Joel M. Gelfand, MD, tells WebMD. Gelfand is an assistant professor
of dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
Gelfand led a team of researchers who compared heart attack risks in almost
131,000 patients with psoriasis; 3,837 of those patients had severe psoriasis.
The study also included 556,995 matched patients who did not have psoriasis for
The researchers found that psoriasis was associated with an elevated risk of
heart attack in all age groups, but especially in younger patients with severe
"This is an important finding because psoriasis patients need to be
talking to their doctors about this. Likewise, doctors need to be talking to
psoriasis patients about this possible risk," says Liz Horn, director of
research at the National Psoriasis Foundation.
Gelfand's study appears in the Oct. 11 issue of The Journal of the
American Medical Association.
Study Builds on Previous Research
Several smaller, hospital-based studies have shown a link between psoriasis
and an increased risk of heart attack. "But none of these studies
controlled for age, gender, elevated cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, and other
risk factors," Gelfand says. "That's what's novel about our
According to the study, excess heart attack risk is higher among psoriasis
patients who are younger. For example, a 40-year-old patient with mild disease
has a 20% greater risk of heart attack than a 40-year-old patient without
psoriasis. But a 40-year-old patient with severe disease has more than double
The risk appears to decline somewhat in older patients. For example, the
study found that a 60-year-old patient with severe disease has a 36% higher
risk than a 60-year-old patient without psoriasis.
"The absolute risk is still low, even for someone who has severe
disease," Gelfand says. "If you're in your 40s or 50s, your risk of
having a heart attack each year due to psoriasis is about one in 400 to one in
600. Over 10 years, that adds up to about one in 40-60. So it does become a
significant risk factor over time."