Psoriasis may increase your stroke risk: Study

Last Updated: Aug 19, 2011, 18:48 PM IST

Washington: Psoriasis, a common skin disease, may increase the risk of stroke and atrial fibrillation, a condition in which the heart beats irregularly, a new study has suggested.

In some cases, patients with psoriasis that causes skin redness and irritation had nearly three times the risk of experiencing these conditions compared with people without it, the Danish study found.

The findings, published in the European Heart Journal, add to a growing body of research linking psoriasis with heart and blood vessel problems, including an increased risk of heart attack and death from cardiovascular disease.

"In recent years, psoriasis has certainly taken the step from a disease affecting appearance to a systemic disease and cardiovascular risk factor," study researcher Dr Ole Ahlehoff was quoted as saying by LiveScience.

Dr Ahleoff, a cardiologist at the Copenhagen University Hospital Gentofte, said patients with psoriasis need to be monitored for indicators of cardiovascular disease, including heart arrhythmias.

And these patients may be candidates for interventions that will reduce cardiovascular disease risk, including lifestyle modifications, such as quitting smoking and getting more exercise, and in some cases, medications, he said.

Future studies should investigate whether treating the condition cuts patients` cardiovascular disease risk, he said.

According to researchers, psoriasis occurs when the immune system sends out faulty signals that speed up the growth cycle of skin cells. In people with the condition, skin cells rise to the skin`s surface too quickly, which doesn`t leave enough time for the old skin cells to fall off, leading to build up of dead skin cells.

For their study, Dr Ahlehoff and his colleagues used a national database and counted the cases of atrial fibrillation and ischemic stroke in about 4.5 million people in Denmark between 1997 and 2006. An ischemic stroke occurs when a blood vessel to the brain becomes blocked.

The researchers identified about 36,700 patients with mild psoriasis and about 2,800 with serve psoriasis during that time period.

They found that people younger than 50 years suffering from psoriasis had about a three fold increased risk of atrial fibrillation, and a 2.8-fold risk of stroke, compared with those who didn`t have psoriasis.

Older patients and those with mild psoriasis had a smaller, but still significant, increase in their risk of stroke and atrial fibrillation.

The results held even after the researchers took into account factors that could affect the findings, including age, gender, medical treatment and procedures, and level of income.