According to latest research, people who suffer from psoriasis, a skin disorder characterized by red, itchy patches, may be more prone to heart attacks.
The link seemed to be particularly strong among young adults with severe cases of the skin disorder, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania report in Wednesday's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
For example, a 30-year-old patient with mild psoriasis had a 29 per cent greater risk of having a heart attack than someone without psoriasis, dermatology professor Dr. Joel Gelfand and his colleagues concluded after adjusting for major cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure and smoking.
Psoriasis, heart attacks and atherosclerosis or blockages in the arteries are all associated with high levels with increased levels of C-reactive protein— a marker of inflamed arteries, reports CBC News.
According to The Herald, Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia carried out a population-based study in the UK involving more than 687,000 people aged 20 to 90. Of these, 127,139 had mild psoriasis and 3837 severe psoriasis.
Several studies have linked psoriasis with a higher prevalence of cardiovascular diseases, but this is thought to be the first to allow for high blood pressure, diabetes, a history of heart attack, high levels of blood fats, age, sex, smoking, and body weight.
Even after taking all these risk factors into account, the researchers found that the incidence of heart attack was higher in patients with severe psoriasis.
Those who were younger and most severely affected had the highest relative risk, the authors reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
"We've known for only about 15 years that psoriasis is driven by the immune system," said Dr. Joel Gelfand, lead investigator in a research project that is among the vanguard linking psoriasis with coronary artery disease. His research, reported in today's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, reveals how the underlying biology of the disorder is intimately associated with that which leads to clogged arteries and heart attacks.
Gelfand, an assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania, says an aggressive immune system response, led by turncoat cells and proteins, conspire against the skin in psoriasis, resulting in inflammation. The patchy skin lesions are a visible sign of the inflammatory response. Internally, however, there is likely deeper evidence within the walls of the coronary arteries, which become inflamed and obstructed with cellular debris.
"I think this is really an evolving scientific theory," Gelfand added, "that coronary artery disease and psoriasis share very similar immune pathways."
Dr. Christopher Richlin, director of immunology research at the University of Rochester said the link between coronary artery disease and psoriasis is likely real and that he, too, is pursuing further studies to uncover an association.
"The view now is that psoriasis can be a systemic disease," said Richlin, who published a landmark study three years ago that elucidated in unprecedented detail how bones and joints are damaged by psoriatic arthritis, a condition that occurs in 10 percent to 15 percent of people with psoriasis, informs Newsday.