A new study found that psoriasis patients are more likely to develop an aneurysm in the abdomen, compared to those without the autoimmune disorder. Although the risk is small, it is still important to note.
The researchers also found that the risk of an abdominal aneurysm increases with the severity of psoriasis. The reason for this connection, researchers speculate, may have to do with the role of inflammation in both conditions.
Lead researcher Dr. Usman Khalid said, “The association between [abdominal aortic aneurysm] and psoriasis has not been examined before, but we are not surprised by seeing a heightened risk in our study. Our results add to the evidence that there is an increased risk of various cardiovascular diseases in patients with psoriasis.”
Nearly 7.5 million Americans suffer from psoriasis, which is an incurable autoimmune disease. In an abdominal aneurysm, the main blood vessel that carries blood from the abdomen to the heart becomes enlarged. Because this condition can be symptomless it can lead to fatal outcomes without any warning.
The researchers analyzed 14 years of data from over 59,000 patients with mild psoriasis and 11,000 patients with severe psoriasis. The participants were followed until they developed an abdominal aneurysm, died, or until the end of the study.
Mild psoriasis patients were found to have a 20 percent higher risk of abdominal aneurysm, compared to people without psoriasis. Patients with severe psoriasis had a 67 percent higher risk of an abdominal aneurysm.
Khalid added, “More research is needed to explain the causal mechanisms. Nonetheless, our findings not only stress the need to treat the symptoms of the skin disorder, but also a regular evaluation of the risk factors that are associated with cardiovascular disease outcomes. Also, patients with psoriasis must be encouraged to change [an] unhealthy lifestyle and adhere to a daily program that will minimize the risk of cardiovascular problems.”
Unfortunately, taking the time to screen psoriasis patients for such conditions can be quite costly. Dr. Katherine Cox, a dermatologist at Houston Methodist West Hospital in Texas, explained, “We have known for a long time that psoriasis is not just a skin-deep issue. We’ve known there’s a cardiovascular risk issue with psoriasis. So, it’s not surprising to see now that it’s connected with [abdominal aneurysms] as well, especially since they share similar inflammatory pathways.”
“Being able to give [risk] numbers to patients makes it more real for patients,” Cox added. Abdominal aneurysms “are a silent killer. I’m not a cardiologist, but because a lot of people are asymptomatic for it, because they’re not looking for it, they may miss it,” Cox concluded.