Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on October 17, 2023

More Than Skin Deep

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Living with psoriasis means you have a greater chance of other health problems, too. The same inflammation that triggers your skin symptoms can affect your whole body. A healthy lifestyle, and medications when you need them, can lower the likelihood of related trouble. Find out what symptoms to be on the lookout for as well as ways you may be able to prevent some of these illnesses.

Psoriatic Arthritis

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Do your joints hurt? Are they stiff or swollen? This type of arthritis mainly affects people with psoriasis. Most often, you'll have skin symptoms before you notice problems in your joints. Tell your doctor if you're more tired than usual or have new aches and pains. Psoriatic arthritis can cause lasting damage, so it's important to catch it early.

Heart Disease

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Psoriasis may triple your chances of having a heart attack and stroke, because inflammation can damage the blood vessels leading to your heart and brain. For your heart's sake, watch your blood pressure and cholesterol, and quit smoking. Try to exercise every day. Include healthy fats in your diet. Work with your doctor to control your skin symptoms, which will help keep inflammation in check.

Obesity

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Adults and kids with psoriasis are more prone to obesity. The more you weigh, the worse your skin symptoms are likely to be. Why? Fat cells release proteins that can trigger inflammation. (Genes you inherit might play a part, too.) Losing weight may give you clearer skin and help your psoriasis medications work better.

Depression

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Someone with psoriasis is twice as likely to be depressed as someone without the skin problem. Scientists think the same inflammation also causes this mental illness. The challenge of living with an ongoing disease can also get you down. If you're sad or hopeless for more than a couple of weeks, reach out for help. You'll feel better, and treating depression may make your skin better, too.

Type 2 Diabetes

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Inflammation makes it hard for cells to absorb sugar from what you eat. The extra sugar builds up in your blood, which can lead to diabetes. You can lower your blood sugar levels by losing extra weight, exercising regularly, and eating high-fiber foods. If you have psoriasis, you should get tested for type 2 diabetes and have your blood sugar checked often.

Metabolic Syndrome

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Sometimes, health problems happen together, like diabetes, belly fat, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. This group is called metabolic syndrome. It's hard on your heart and makes death from a heart attack or stroke more likely. Your doctor should check your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels often. Do your part, too: Stay at a healthy weight, exercise, and limit the fast food.

Crohn's Disease

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Bowel problems like Crohn's disease are caused by the same type of inflammation and share some of the same genes with psoriasis. Be sure to tell your doctor if you have symptoms such as belly pain, cramping, and bloody diarrhea, or if you lose weight without trying to. There's no known way to prevent Crohn's disease. But foods like fruits, vegetables, salmon, and olive oil can help fight inflammation.

Uveitis

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There's a chance that psoriasis can raise your odds of having this group of eye problems. (Your chances are even greater if you have psoriatic arthritis.) Uveitis is inflammation inside your eye, leading to symptoms like eye pain and redness, blurred vision, and being sensitive to light. Some types of uveitis can cause vision loss, so see your doctor as soon as you notice any changes in your sight.

Cancer

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The link between psoriasis and some health problems isn't always clear. Cancer is one example. Psoriasis may raise your odds of lung cancer, non-melanoma skin cancer, and lymphoma, which affects your immune system. But we're not sure if this is because of psoriasis itself or the treatments you get for it. Play it safe. If you smoke, quit. Wear sunscreen year-round. And talk to your doctor about the side effects of medications you take.

Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

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In one study, half of people with psoriasis had a buildup of fat in their livers, called NAFLD for short. You often won't have symptoms, but it can lead to more serious liver problems. To help prevent it, lose extra weight, exercise, and avoid alcohol and high-fructose corn syrup. Ask your doctor if your medicines could harm your liver.

Kidney Disease

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Severe psoriasis may affect your kidneys. At least, that's what one large study found. (People with psoriasis on less than 3% of their body didn't have trouble.) Some medications can harm the kidneys, so that might be the problem, but it's not certain. Watch for swollen ankles, tiredness, and peeing more than normal. Your doctor can do a simple test to check how well your kidneys are working.

Osteoporosis

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As you get older, your bones can become more fragile and easy to break. Most studies have not found a link with psoriasis, but there might be. Weight-bearing exercise, like walking or jogging most days, will help keep your bones strong. Get plenty of calcium and vitamin D. Don't smoke. Women over 65 should get a bone density test to check how healthy their bones are.

Show Sources

SOURCES:

Journal of Drugs in Dermatology: "Psoriasis and its comorbidities."

National Psoriasis Foundation: "Images Link Psoriasis to Other Diseases," "About Psoriatic Arthritis," "Cardiovascular Disease," "Does Obesity Lead to Psoriasis?" "Depression," "Psoriasis tied to higher risk for type 2 diabetes," "Psoriasis Linked to Metabolic Syndrome," "Psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis connected to Crohn's," "Diet and Psoriasis," "Uveitis: A Threat to Eyesight," "New study points toward increased risk for some cancers in people with psoriasis," "Psoriasis alone raises risk for nonalcoholic liver disease," "Kidney Disease More Likely with Moderate to Severe Psoriasis."

Dermatology Research and Practice: "Psoriasis and Cardiovascular Risk: Assessment by CUORE Project Risk Score in Italian Patients."

American College of Rheumatology: "Psoriatic Arthritis."

The Arthritis Foundation: "What Is Psoriatic Arthritis?"

Jon T. Giles, MD, assistant professor of medicine, Columbia University School of Medicine.

The Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis Alliance: "Psoriasis and the Heart."

JAMA News Network: "Psoriasis Associated with Diabetes, BMI & Obesity in Danish Twin Study."

U.C. Davis Health System: "People with severe psoriasis have nearly twice the risk of diabetes."

PlosOne: "Fast food intake increases the incidence of metabolic syndrome in children and adolescents: Tehran Lipid and Glucose Study."

American Academy of Dermatology: "Psoriasis."

Brazilian Annals of Dermatology: "Psoriasis: New comorbidities."

The Dermatologist: "Comorbidities in psoriasis."

National Eye Institute: "Facts About Uveitis."

Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology: "Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease and Psoriasis."

National Kidney Foundation: "About Chronic Kidney Disease."

Choosing Wisely: "Bone Density Tests."