Is Inflammation to Blame?
Earlier research by Gelfand and others found that people with severe psoriasis are at increased risk for a wide range of chronic conditions, including heart disease.
Psoriasis is now widely believed to be an autoimmune disease involving inflammation and the accelerated growth of skin cells and blood vessels, which produce the swollen, red lesions characteristic of the condition.
"One theory is that this chronic inflammation impacts other organs and systems within the body," Elizabeth Horn, PhD, of the International Psoriasis Council tells WebMD.
Inflammation within the body is increasingly recognized as a major contributor to a host of life-threatening conditions.
Horn says the latest research should serve as a wake-up call to patients and their doctors that severe psoriasis is a serious disease.
"We are learning that there is something happening in people with severe psoriasis that may not be happening with milder forms of the disease," she says.
Horn and Gelfand agree that patients with severe psoriasis need to be especially vigilant about taking care of their overall health.
"It is very important for these patients to see their internist regularly, to have age-appropriate screenings, and to have their cardiovascular risks assessed and treated, if necessary," Gelfand says.