Psoriasis: Complications and Other Conditions

Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on May 24, 2021

Psoriasis is a skin condition caused by a problem with your immune system. For reasons that researchers don't fully understand, the immune system misfires and your skin cells multiply faster than usual. Those extra cells build up on your skin and create red, itchy scales called plaques.

The faulty immune system response also causes inflammation in other parts of your body. The swelling that results can cause problems with organs, including your eyes, joints, and heart.

Not everyone with psoriasis will have these other problems. You lower your risk for complications when you follow your doctor's instructions and take your psoriasis treatment.

Complications and Other Conditions Linked to Psoriasis

These problems can happen along with or because of psoriasis:

Psoriatic arthritis. This is the most common condition that happens along with psoriasis. About 30% of people with psoriasis also have psoriatic arthritis. It causes pain, stiffness, and swelling, and it may cause deformed joints. If you have psoriasis plus psoriatic arthritis, you will take medicines to treat both conditions together.

Eye problems. Inflammation from psoriasis can affect many parts of your eyes. Eye conditions that are linked to psoriasis include:

If you have one of these eye problems, you'll notice symptoms like:

Mental health conditions. Because psoriasis affects your skin, it's very visible and can affect your self-esteem and mood. You're more likely to be depressed and anxious, especially if your skin plaques are severe.

Cancer. Having psoriasis puts you at slightly higher risk for certain types of cancer, including:

Inflammation may be the reason for the increased risk. People with other inflammatory conditions like Crohn's disease are also at higher risk for cancer. Phototherapy treatment can put you at higher risk for skin cancer if you use it a lot.

Heart disease. Inflammation damages the heart and blood vessels, which could lead to a heart attack or stroke. People with psoriasis also have other risk factors for heart disease, such as:

Hair and nail loss. Psoriasis damages hair and nails. The disease can leave tiny dents or pits in your nails, change their color, or make them separate from your finger. Psoriasis also affects the scalp. It can leave patches of hair loss.

Type 2 diabetes. This disease of high blood sugar affects more people with psoriasis than without. Researchers don't know the exact reason for the connection, or which condition -- diabetes or psoriasis -- starts first.

Digestive disorders. People with psoriasis are nearly twice as likely to have inflammation in their GI tract called inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD. Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are the two types of IBD. Inflammation and genes may have something to do with the connection between psoriasis and IBD.

Obesity. Excess fat triggers inflammation in your body. People with psoriasis are more likely to be overweight or obese than those without this skin condition. Obesity can make psoriasis worse.

Autoimmune diseases. Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease, which means it starts because of a problem with your immune system. That same faulty immune response increases your risk for other autoimmune diseases, including:

Kidney disease. Psoriasis, especially when it’s severe, has connections with a higher risk for chronic kidney disease. Both the inflammation itself and some of the medicines you take to treat psoriasis can damage the kidneys and its blood vessels.

Sleep problems. Psoriasis can make it hard to sleep well. Not only can the pain and itch keep you awake, but you're more likely to have sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome.

Infections. Psoriasis increases your risk for infections. So do some of the medications you take to treat it. Your medications work by lowering your immune system response, which can make it easier for germs to get into your body and cause trouble.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). COPD and psoriasis are both inflammatory diseases. In COPD, the airways swell up and make it harder to breathe. Having psoriasis makes you almost twice as likely to get COPD, especially if your skin disease is severe. Smoking also raises your risk for both psoriasis and COPD.

Show Sources


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