Psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis (PsA) are associated with an increased risk of heart disease. People with either of these conditions are between 1.5 and 2 times more likely than the general population to develop heart disease. The risk is highest for people with severe psoriasis or PsA. Heart disease is a significant comorbidity — or a disease that occurs alongside another disease — for people with psoriasis and PsA.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune skin disease caused by an overactive immune system. Psoriasis causes inflammation of the skin, with symptoms such as dry, scaly, and thickened patches of skin that may be itchy, discolored, or infected during flare-ups. About one-third of people with psoriasis develop PsA, which causes painful joints and swollen fingers and toes, among other symptoms. Psoriasis and PsA can also affect other organs. Uveitis, an inflammation of the middle layer of the eye, is an example.
Heart disease, also called cardiovascular disease, comes in many forms. Some types of heart disease include:
Heart disease is linked to life-threatening complications like heart attacks, heart failure, and strokes.
Recognizing the connections between psoriasis and heart disease can help you take action to improve your health and well-being.
The connection between heart disease and psoriasis is not fully understood, but it is believed to be related to chronic inflammation that is associated with both conditions. Research shows that a buildup of cholesterol in arteries may trigger proinflammatory proteins in the immune system that contribute to the development of heart disease.
Psoriasis is also a chronic inflammatory disease. Psoriasis is a hereditary condition that causes dysfunction in the immune system, primarily affecting the skin barrier. People with psoriasis are prone to flare-ups caused by injury or irritation to the skin, psychological stress, and bacterial infection.
Heart disease can be hereditary, or it may be caused by cardiovascular risk factors. Some of these risk factors include:
Psoriasis and PsA are associated with many comorbidities, including heart disease. Metabolic syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, osteoporosis, fibromyalgia, and depression are all considered comorbidities of psoriasis.
Studies have shown that people with psoriasis have an especially high prevalence of developing metabolic syndrome, a condition that causes systemic inflammation. Metabolic syndrome is associated with high blood pressure, obesity, liver disease, diabetes, and high levels of lipids (fat) in the bloodstream — all of which can increase the risk for cardiovascular disease.
Risk factors for metabolic syndrome include:
People with psoriasis have a 22 percent to 98 percent higher risk of developing metabolic syndrome, depending on the severity of their psoriasis. Regular blood tests can screen for signs of metabolic syndrome.
Research has shown that people with moderate or severe psoriasis and PsA can reduce the incidence of stroke, heart attack, and heart-related death by maintaining their treatment plans for psoriasis and PsA.
Certain disease-modifying drugs that are used in the treatment of psoriasis may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Methotrexate (a disease-modifying antirheumatic drug) and biologics (such as tumor necrosis factor inhibitors and interleukin inhibitors) have been shown in some situations to provide heart protection.
Some biologic drugs associated with reducing the risk of heart disease include:
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that may be used to treat joint pain in PsA — such as ibuprofen (Advil) and celecoxib (Celebrex) — have been shown to increase the risk for heart disease. Talk to your doctors if you are taking NSAIDs and have heart disease.
Several drugs that are used to treat heart problems have been shown to cause psoriasis or make it worse in some people. These medications include:
If you have heart disease and psoriasis, it’s essential to discuss your medications with your cardiologist, dermatologist, and rheumatologist.
Psoriasis and PsA are usually managed with individualized treatment plans that typically include home skin care and prescription or over-the-counter topical therapies. Treatment may also include ultraviolet phototherapy, oral medications, or biologic drugs that are taken by injection or infusion.
Lifestyle changes can help improve your heart health and reduce psoriatic disease flares. They can also improve your overall health, well-being, and quality of life. Talk to your doctors if you need advice for:
Your doctors can provide referrals for a dietitian, physical therapist, or counselor. People with heart disease, psoriasis, and PsA may want to coordinate care with a multidisciplinary health care team. It’s important to advocate for the care you need and find resources that help you feel your best.
On MyHeartDiseaseTeam, the social network for people with heart disease, more than 51,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with cardiovascular conditions.
Do you have questions about psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis and how they affect your heart condition? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.