Millions of Americans struggle with an often painful condition that can strike in times of stress or cold weather. Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that entails an overgrowth of skin cells. Flare-ups can also be triggered by infections, sunburn, or smoking cigarettes. Psoriasis is the most common autoimmune disease.
A psoriasis flare-up typically appears as red scales on the skin, or dried and cracked skin. Psoriasis is usually found on the elbows and knees, but it can be anywhere. Itchy, scaly, pink skin can be a sign of the condition. Psoriasis can even appear on the scalp, where it can cause severe dandruff. Other symptoms include joint pain and yellowish fingernails. As with most autoimmune diseases, psoriasis has no cure, but it can be treated with anti-inflammatory drugs, and topical creams can alleviate the symptoms. Although psoriasis is generally not debilitating, it can have some serious complications and is linked to more serious diseases.
A study in Taiwan released last month found that people with chronic periodontal disease are more likely to have psoriasis. Both psoriasis and poor gum health have been linked with heart disease, and there was no conclusive evidence that gum disease leads to people who are susceptible to psoriasis developing condition. The study tracked nearly a quarter of a million subjects, and found that the people with gum disease were 54 percent more likely to then be diagnosed with psoriasis.
Psoriasis patients are at elevated risk for diabetes as well. Two separate studies earlier this year found a link between the incidence of psoriasis and that of type 2 diabetes. In both studies, the chronic inflammation associated with psoriasis was found to also lead to a prediabetic condition called metabolic syndrome. The anti-inflammatory medications used to treat psoriasis may lower this risk. The link between psoriasis and diabetes exists even when the patient is not overweight or obese.
Possibly the most worrying illness associated with psoriasis is cancer. Multiple studies have found that psoriasis patients are at heightened risk for lymphoma and—perhaps unsurprisingly—skin cancer. Lymphoma affects the immune system, and the increased immune activity associated with diseases such as psoriasis appears to make it more likely for that particular form of cancer to develop. The ultraviolet light treatments used for psoriasis are assumed to be behind the link with skin cancer.