The December 10 issue of The American Journal of Cardiology describes new research for patients with severe forms of the skin disease psoriasis. It is now believed that these patients should receive evaluation and possible treatment to reduce their risk of coronary artery disease (also known as CAD), which is a narrowing of the arteries supplying the heart that can lead to heart attack and other complications.
Psoriasis is a common skin disease affecting two to three percent of the world population, including 7.5 million Americans. The most common type of psoriasis causes a scaly rash that can cover large areas of the skin; some patients develop arthritis as well. Some cases of psoriasis are particularly severe -- it is these cases that doctors believe need to be looked at closely to determine if there may be a CAD link.
An "Editor's Consensus" article in the journal provides an update on the little-recognized link between psoriasis and heart disease, focusing on a new area of evidence strengthening the connection between inflammatory processes and coronary artery disease. Dr. Vincent E. Friedewald, M.D., of the University of Notre Dame, comments that the article is a "particularly interesting and unique document in that it bridges current knowledge from two medical disciplines—dermatology and cardiology—that rarely interrelate."
The explanation for the link between psoriasis and CAD risk is not yet clear, but a leading candidate is inflammation. Regardless of the cause, the expert panel believes that the current evidence is strong enough to recommend that doctors assess CAD risk in their patients with psoriasis.