Psoriasis 'linked to stroke risk'

By James Gallagher
Health reporter, BBC News

image captionPsoriasis linked to stroke and heart problems

People with psoriasis have nearly three times the normal risk of stroke and abnormal heart rhythm, according to scientists in Denmark.

A study of 4.5 million people, published in the European Heart Journal, showed the highest risk was in young patients with severe psoriasis.

Researchers believe this may be because the skin and blood vessels may share similar sources of inflammation.

The Stroke Association said this should not be an immediate cause for concern.

Super fast

Skin cells are normally replaced every three to four weeks but, in patients with psoriasis, that process can be greatly speeded up.

It can take between just two and six days, resulting in red, flaky, crusty patches on the skin.

The condition affects 2% of people in the UK and the cause is unknown.

Researchers analysed data from everyone in Denmark between 1997 and 2006 - 36,765 had mild psoriasis and 2,793 had the severe form of the condition.

In patients under 50 with mild psoriasis, the risk of abnormal heart rhythm - atrial fibrillation - increased by 50%. The risk of ischaemic stroke increased by 97%.

In those with severe psoriasis, the risks increased by 198% and 180% respectively.

The increased risks for patients over the age of 50 were much smaller.


The researchers said: "The relative risks of atrial fibrillation and ischaemic stroke were highest in young patients with severe psoriasis.

"The results add to accumulating evidence that patients with psoriasis are at increased cardiovascular risk."

The study can say only that there is a link between psoriasis and increased risk, not that one causes the other.

Psoriasis in an inflammatory disorder caused when the immune system attacks healthy skin cells, which stimulates the production of new skin.

Researchers believe the inflammation may play a role in stroke and heart problems.

Dr Sharlin Ahmed, research liaison officer at The Stroke Association said: "Previous research has shown that psoriasis could increase a person's risk of heart disease and this research seems to suggest that it could also increase a person's risk of atrial fibrillation and stroke.

"However, the reasons for this are not known. Psoriasis is a very common condition and the results of this research should not be an immediate cause for concern.

"Anyone concerned about their stroke risk should speak to their GP."

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