Skin Condition Linked to Risk of Aneurysm

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The effects of psoriasis go far deeper than the skin: The condition may raise a person's risk of a potentially deadly aneurysm, a new study from Denmark finds.

People in the study who had psoriasis — an inflammatory skin condition that causes red, scaly patches of skin — also had a greater risk of having an abdominal aortic aneurysm, according to the study, published today (April 14) in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology.

An abdominal aortic aneurysm is a relatively rare condition that occurs when the aorta, the large blood vessel that carries blood to the abdomen, becomes enlarged. If the enlarged aorta ruptures, it can be deadly, and there are often no symptoms of the aneurysm before a rupture occurs.

The researchers found that as the severity of a person's psoriasis increased, so did the person's risk for an abdominal aortic aneurysm. [Heart Disease: Types, Prevention & Treatments]

In the study, the researchers looked at nearly 60,000 people with mild psoriasis and more than 11,000 people with severe psoriasis. The researchers compared the risk of an aneurysm in each of these groups with the risk of having one among the 5.4 million people in the general population of Denmark, according to the study.

Over a 14-year study period, 50 people with severe psoriasis, and 240 people with the mild form of the condition, developed an aneurysm.

When the researchers took into account other factors that can affect people's risk of an aneurysm, such as their age and smoking history, they found that people with severe psoriasis had a 67 percent greater risk of developing an abdominal aortic aneurysm compared with the control group. People with mild psoriasis were also found to have an elevated risk: They were 20 percent more likely to develop the condition compared with the control group.

This is not the first study to suggest that psoriasis may be linked to cardiovascular health. Psoriasis results from inflammation in the skin, and a 2015 study found that the skin condition was linked to the amount of inflammation in a person's blood vessels, which increases a person's risk for heart disease. In the new study, the researchers noted that inflammation in the aorta is necessary for the development of an aneurysm.

Indeed, "psoriasis must be considered as a systemic inflammatory disease rather than an isolated skin disease," Dr. Usman Khalid, a cardiology researcher at Herlev and Gentofte Hospital in Denmark and the lead author of the study, said in a statement.  [4 Common Skin Woes, and How to Fix Them]

Because of this, patients with psoriasis should be more aware of their possible risk of cardiovascular diseases, including abdominal aortic aneurysms, Khalid said.

More research is needed, however, to determine if patients with psoriasis should undergo additional screenings for aneurysms, he said.

In addition, further research is required to determine if treating psoriasis with anti-inflammatory drugs may also reduce the risk of aneurysms, he said. Currently, there is no cure for psoriasis, but certain drugs can help patients manage their symptoms.

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Sara G. Miller
Staff Writer
Sara is a staff writer for Live Science, covering health. She grew up outside of Philadelphia and studied biology at Hamilton College in upstate New York. When she's not writing, she can be found at the library, checking out a big stack of books.