An irritating skin condition may mean there is irritation in your blood vessels too, a new study finds. In the study of people with psoriasis, an inflammatory skin condition, researchers found that the severity of a person's psoriasis was linked to the amount of inflammation in the blood vessels, a factor that increases risk of heart disease.

Psoriasis is a common skin condition that changes the life cycle of skin cells. Psoriasis causes cells to build up rapidly on the surface of the skin. In people with psoriasis, skin cells rise from the skin's lower layers to the surface of the skin too quickly, which doesn't leave enough time for the old skin cells to fall off.  The extra skin cells form thick, silvery scales and itchy, dry, red patches that are sometimes painful. The disease affects up to 3 percent of adults in the United States, according to the study.   

Patients who had more severe psoriasis also had higher levels of inflammation in their blood vessels, according to the new study, published in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology. The study provides strong evidence that what is seen on the outside in terms of skin disease severity is mirrored on the inside in terms of blood vessel inflammation.

In the study, the researchers looked at 60 patients with psoriasis and 20 people without psoriasis. The researchers used a scoring system to rate each patient’s psoriasis on a scale from mild to severe.

To measure blood vessel inflammation, the researchers used PET/CT scans — the study participants were injected with a radioactive sugar that makes inflamed blood vessels appear as bright spots on the scan.

The researchers also used blood tests to explore the mechanisms that might explain the link between psoriasis and inflamed blood vessels. They found that levels of immune cells called neutrophils were higher in patients with more severe psoriasis, he said. Neutrophils play a role in both psoriasis and blood vessel inflammation, the researchers wrote.

Although there have been some mechanism studies in the past, none have looked at neutrophil activity. This adds to researchers' knowledge and provides potential targets for new medications that could be used to treat the condition. Currently, there is no cure for psoriasis, however there are treatments that can help patients manage the condition.

Researchers aren't yet sure if treating psoriasis could reduce a patient's risk of cardiovascular disease, but according to the latest discoveries patients with psoriasis should maintain a heart-healthy lifestyle.


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