Cardiovascular risk may be skin deep

By Thomas Reilly



Scientific evidence linking inflammation, the process by which the body’s immune system responds to harmful stimuli such as injury and infection, in the development of heart disease continues to mount. Scientists at the University Of Miami Miller School Of Medicine recently observed that patients with psoriasis, a systemic inflammation condition of the skin that affects nearly 3 percent of the world’s population, including over 7 million Americans, were significantly more likely than controls to develop atherosclerosis, a major risk factor for heart disease and heart attack. Patients with psoriasis were also more likely to have vascular disease, that is constriction of the blood vessels leading to the heart (ischemic heart disease), the brain (cerebral vascular disease), or elsewhere in the body (peripheral arterial disease). Vascular disease represents a huge financial and health burden to the health care system.

Inflammation is a two-edged sword. While the process is a critical response to injury, if unchecked, the process gets out of hand and chronic inflammation can develop. Chronic inflammation of the artery wall can cause atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries.

Given the association between inflammation and heart disease, the current findings may not be too surprising, since psoriasis is clearly an inflammatory condition. However the results are particularly interesting because psoriasis is a topical disease, a disease of the skin. Furthermore, these findings beg the obvious question for further research: will aggressive treatment of psoriasis lower the risk of heart disease? Whatever the answer, dermatologists who treat patients with psoriasis should be aware of these findings and take advantage of the opportunity to help their patients’ hearts as well as their skin.

*The views expressed here in no way represent the views or policies of New Health Corp, the FDA, or any other official agency.