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Posted: April 12, 2011

Severe Psoriasis
Could Be Sign of Serious Heart Risk

Previous research established a link between serious psoriasis, a common inflammation of the skin, and the risk of cardiovascular disease. Until now, science didn't know much about the link.

But new research from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine has revealed the extent of the increased incidence of major adverse cardiac events (MACE) in patients with severe psoriasis.

In a study analyzing data from a general practice research database, patients with severe psoriasis have a 53% increased incidence of a major cardiac event compared to the general population. In addition, the relative risk of death from cardiovascular disease was even higher in younger patients, who were as young as age 40.

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The research doesn't attempt to explain why a skin disease might have adverse impact on the cardiovascular system, making a subject more vulnerable to a heart attack or stroke.

No one knows exactly what causes psoriasis. However, the National Psoriasis Foundation says it is understood that the immune system and genetics play major roles in its development. "Most researchers agree that the immune system is somehow mistakenly triggered, which causes a series of events, including acceleration of skin cell growth," the Foundation says.

A normal skin cell matures and falls off the body in 28 to 30 days. A skin cell in a patient with psoriasis takes only 3 to 4 days to mature and instead of falling off (shedding), the cells pile up on the surface of the skin, forming psoriasis lesions.

Scientists believe that at least 10% of the general population inherits one or more of the genes that create a predisposition to psoriasis. However, only 2% to 3% of the population actually develops the disease, according to the Foundation.

An October 2006 study was the first to confirm the increased risk of cardiovascular disease for psoriasis patients, especially those with severe psoriasis in their 40s and 50s. The Foundation says psoriasis patients should examine their modifiable risk factors -- for example, quit smoking, reduce stress, decrease sodium intake and maintain a normal weight – in order to improve their chances of avoiding a psoriasis-linked heart event.

Meanwhile, the Penn researchers conclude that their finding call for more aggressive strategies for treatment of cardiovascular risk factors in patients with psoriasis.

(Article courtesy of

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