Conference Coverage

Comorbidities are important in psoriasis care



– Pay attention to comorbidities in your psoriasis patients because there may not be anyone else doing so.

“Many of our patients don’t have primary care physicians; many are untreated for psoriasis. They come to a clinical trial to get treated – some of them may not have insurance – so it is important for us to watch for these comorbidities,” Kristina C. Duffin, MD, said at Skin Disease Education Foundation’s annual Las Vegas Dermatology Seminar.

Yet, that does not seem to be happening consistently, according to Dr. Duffin, of the department of dermatology at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City. One in five dermatologists admitted to never screening or referring their psoriasis patients for management of cardiovascular risks in a 2015 survey (J Am Acad Dermatol. 2015 doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2015.07.029).

Often patients at the start of biologic therapy are counseled about the risk for developing tuberculosis, yet the lifetime risk for doing so in the United States is 0.3%. Similarly, patients are often counseled on the risk for developing lymphoma, even though the excess risk for developing lymphoma that can be attributed to psoriasis treatment is 7.9 per 100,000 psoriasis patients per year. That screening seems to be driven by warnings issued in direct-to-consumer advertising, Dr. Duffin suggested.

“Although psoriasis patients have an increased relative risk of lymphoma, the absolute risk attributable to psoriasis is low,” Dr. Duffin pointed out.

Some of the comorbidities she advised dermatologists to watch for are described below.

Psoriatic arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis is the most important psoriasis comorbidity, Dr. Duffin said. Between 20% and 30% of psoriasis patients will develop psoriatic arthritis.

In a study of 1,511 patients in 48 centers in Germany, 21% of psoriasis patients were diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis and of those, more than 95% had active arthritis and 53% had five or more affected joints (Br J Dermatol. 2009;160[5]:1040-7).

The GRAPPA app is an easy, free screening tool for psoriatic arthritis; patients who score 3 or more out of 5 items on the psoriasis epidemiology screening tool (PEST) are deemed positive for psoriatic arthritis, Dr. Duffin noted.

Cardiovascular disease

Psoriasis patients are at increased risk of myocardial infarction, stroke, cardiovascular death, diabetes, and chronic kidney disease, Dr. Duffin said. In fact, CV risk from severe psoriasis is similar to the risk conferred by diabetes.

She added that there is epidemiologic evidence for CV risk modification with several of the biologics approved for psoriasis.


Hypertension is prevalent and more severe in psoriasis patients, Dr. Duffin said, citing a 2011 case-control study of electronic medical records at the University of California, Davis. Psoriasis patients with hypertension were 5 times more likely than patients without psoriasis to be on one antihypertensive medication, 9.5 times more likely to be on two, and almost 20 times more likely to be on four antihypertensive medications (PLoS One. 2011 Mar 29;6[3]:e18227. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0018227).

Importantly, few primary care physicians and cardiologists are aware of the increased risk for hypertension in psoriasis patients.

Less than half (45%) of primary care physicians and 57% of cardiologists reported they were aware that psoriasis was associated with worse cardiovascular outcome, and only 43% of physicians reported screening psoriasis patients for hypertension starting at age 20 years, according to a 2012 survey of 251 physicians (J Am Acad Dermatol. 2012 Sep;67[3]:357-62).

Dr. Duffin called on dermatologists to ensure that the primary care physicians they work with understand these increased risks.

“Commit to including a comment in consultation letters or letters back to primary care physicians that talks about the cardiovascular risks of the disease,” she said.

Dr. Duffin reported that she is a consultant and has received grant or contracted research support for many companies that manufacture dermatologic therapies.

SDEF and this news organization are owned by the same parent company.

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