Psoriasis and Obesity: What’s the Connection?

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on May 25, 2015
From the WebMD Archives

Did you know that psoriasis may be linked to your weight?

People with this skin condition are more likely than others to be obese. And if you have a lot of extra pounds, the condition may become worse and harder to treat.

Doctors don’t know which comes first. But long-lasting inflammation throughout the body is something they have in common.

Fat cells may be able to turn on inflammation. There is also good evidence that the more you weigh, the more severe your psoriasis is, says Benjamin D. Ehst, MD, PhD, assistant professor of dermatology at Oregon Health and Sciences University.

Psoriasis could also lead to obesity in some people.

For instance, you could gain weight if being active were painful (which is especially likely if you have psoriatic arthritis) or if you avoided exercise because tight-fitting workout clothes were uncomfortable on your skin.

Likewise, if you were self-conscious about your skin and you often comforted yourself with food, that could lead to extra pounds.

No matter what size you are, there are solutions that can help.

Skin Care Tips

Take extra care to keep any skin folds clean. When you shower, wash with mild soap that's free of perfumes, and use only warm or lukewarm water.

“Hot temperatures wash away your skin's protective oils," says Delphine Lee, MD, PhD, a dermatologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA. "You might also try applying powder afterwards to decrease moisture and itchiness."

Do you use skin cream medications for your psoriasis? Remember that skin folds are more moist, “so medicine penetrates more readily," Lee says.

Go easy in those areas with creams that your doctor has prescribed, especially steroids that you put on your skin, “since those can thin your skin over time," Lee says.

Will Weight Loss Help?

For some people, psoriasis symptoms greatly improve after weight loss surgery. It may be that when you lose extra fat, inflammation eases throughout the body.

But that doesn’t always happen.

“A recent study showed that only 40% of people who had bariatric surgery saw an improvement in their psoriasis,” says Tissa Hata, MD, director of the University of California San Diego dermatology clinical trials unit.


Getting to a healthy weight through diet and exercise may bring some relief.

In one study, obese people who lost an average of 35 pounds had a “small improvement” in their psoriasis,” says Joel Gelfand, MD, associate professor of dermatology and epidemiology at University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.

Some psoriasis medicines also work better on people who are in the healthy range for BMI, which means they are not overweight (or underweight).

Although there’s a chance that weight loss won’t clear up your psoriasis for good, it will still be good for your overall health. So it’s a win, either way.

Food Factor

What you eat may affect how much inflammation you have. For instance, saturated fats may cause inflammation, so choose olive oil when you can. It’s also good to eat salmon, tuna, or other fish that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

Because of their fiber, whole grains trump processed grains (think brown rice instead of white). Fruits and vegetables have nutrients that target inflammation, so enjoy them at every meal.


Exercise also helps. Go for workouts like low-impact aerobics or strengthening exercises to ease joint stiffness, pain, and swelling. Ask your doctor how much activity is right for you.

When you make these lifestyle changes, “start small and go slow,” Lee says. “That way, you’re more likely to stick with your new routine.”

WebMD Feature



Benjamin D. Ehst, MD, PhD, assistant professor of dermatology, Oregon Health and Sciences University, Portland, OR.

Joel Gelfand, MD, MSCE, associate professor of dermatology, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, Philadelphia.

Tissa Hata, MD, director, University of California San Diego Dermatology Clinical Trials Unit, San Diego.

Delphine Lee, MD, PhD, dermatologist, Saint John’s Health Center, Santa Monica, CA.

Michael Siegel, PhD, director of research programs, National Psoriasis Foundation, Portland, OR.

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