When Psoriasis Is Dangerous

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If you’ve been diagnosed with psoriasis, it’s important to take care of yourself and follow a treatment plan. Psoriasis is a disease caused by a mis-fire in the immune system, not just a skin condition like acne.

With psoriasis, new skin cells grow much faster than they should — over a period of days, not months. These skin cells pile up into patches that may itch or hurt. Many people don’t realize psoriasis can affect the whole body because psoriasis is often diagnosed by a dermatologist.

Since psoriasis is a whole-body disease, it increases the risk of more serious conditions, including psoriatic arthritis (swollen, painful joints), atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in the arteries), high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. Some types of psoriasis are also more dangerous than others. Gain a better understanding of the type of psoriasis you have and know what to watch out for when it comes to related conditions. Then, have a talk with your doctor about your psoriasis as part of your overall health.

The 2 Most Dangerous Types of Psoriasis: Erythrodermic & Pustular Von Zumbusch

The two most dangerous types of psoriasis are rare, but they can be life-threatening.

Erythrodermic Psoriasis

Erythrodermic psoriasis accounts for only 3% of psoriasis cases. Most of the skin turns red, and it sheds off the body in sheets. Symptoms include shivering and an elevated heart rate. Left untreated, erythrodermic psoriasis can lead to pneumonia and congestive heart failure.

Pustular Psoriasis of the Von Zumbusch Type

Pustular psoriasis appears as small blisters. A rare form of pustular psoriasis called Von Zumbusch first appears as large areas of red skin, with pustules forming within hours and drying within the next day or two. Symptoms include:

  • racing pulse

People with the Von Zumbusch type of psoriasis may need to be hospitalized to re-hydrate and get the body’s temperature under control.  

If you experience the signs or symptoms of erythrodermic psoriasis or pustular psoriasis of the Von Zumbusch Type, seek medical attention immediately.

Psoriasis and the Increased Risk of More Serious Conditions

Much less dangerous and more common types of psoriasis are guttate psoriasis and plaque psoriasis. (In psoriasis terminology, a plaque is a raised patch of skin build-up.) All types of psoriasis are associated with the following conditions. Be aware of them and know the signs and symptoms so you better address any concerns when you talk with your doctor.

Psoriatic Arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis is a type of arthritis that causes joints to swell, becoming painful and stiff. Over time, the swelling can lead to joint damage. It’s estimated that about 30% of people with psoriasis will also develop psoriatic arthritis. If you’ve been diagnosed with psoriasis, be sure to tell your doctor about any joint pain or stiffness. Early diagnosis and treatment of psoriatic arthritis not only helps relieve symptoms, it can also slow progressive joint damage. Waiting even six months for proper treatment has been linked with permanent damage to joints. It’s simply not worth it to wait.

Atherosclerosis

Artherosclerosis, also called hardening of the arteries, is a buildup of substances in the arteries including fat, cholesterol, and calcium. This type of internal plaque makes the arteries more narrow, so it’s harder for blood to flow through them. Atherosclerosis can lead to heart attack and stroke. If you have psoriasis, ask your doctor about atherosclerosis exams and tests that can catch problems early.

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is a leading risk factor for heart disease, and it has been connected with psoriasis. In one recent study, those with moderate psoriasis were shown to be 20% more likely to have high blood pressure than those without psoriasis. Those with severe psoriasis were 48% more likely to have high blood pressure than those without psoriasis. Make sure you get your blood pressure checked regularly.

Psoriasis, Diabetes and Obesity

New research has explored the relationship among psoriasis, diabetes, and obesity. A recent study of twins found a connection among all three conditions, both genetically and in terms of an inactive lifestyle with a poor diet and high stress. Certain psoriasis medications may also cause obesity or diabetes or be made less effective by obesity.

Remember, psoriasis is more than just a skin condition. It affects your entire system. Be sure to maintain a healthy weight, eat a healthy diet, and have regular screenings for cardiovascular conditions and diabetes as part of your psoriasis treatment plan. Ask your doctor about ways to improve your overall health and understand the risks and benefits of any medication.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Oct 7
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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