The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology have identified chronic inflammatory states, such as psoriasis, as inducing factors that predispose patients to CVD. Many studies have found an association among psoriasis, coronary artery disease, myocardial infarction (MI), and stroke.4-7 It is strongly recommended that dermatologists educate patients of their increased risk for CVD, given the association between psoriasis and major adverse cardiovascular events (eg, stroke, heart failure, MI) and cardiovascular health. However, patients with congestive heart failure were found to have an increased risk of mortality associated with use of tumor necrosis factor (TNF) α inhibitors (P=.016).8 Thus, TNF inhibitors are contraindicated in patients with New York Heart Association Class III or Class IV congestive heart failure.9
Primary care physicians (PCPs) are recommended to screen patients for CVD risk factors using height, weight, blood pressure, blood glucose, hemoglobin A1C, lipid levels, abdominal circumference, and body mass index (BMI). Lifestyle modifications such as smoking cessation, exercise, and dietary changes are encouraged to achieve and maintain a normal BMI.
Dermatologists also need to give special consideration to comorbidities when selecting medications and/or therapies for disease management. Patients on TNF inhibitors have a lower risk for MI compared with patients using topical medications, phototherapy, and other oral agents.10 Additionally, patients on TNF inhibitors have a lower risk for occurrence of major adverse cardiovascular events compared with patients treated with methotrexate or phototherapy.11,12
Numerous studies have demonstrated an association between psoriasis and metabolic syndrome. Patients with increased BSA involvement and psoriasis area and severity index scores have a higher prevalence of metabolic syndrome.13 Patients with psoriasis have an increased risk for the following conditions compared to controls: obesity (38% vs 31%; odds ratio [OR], 1.38; 95% CI, 1.29-1.48), elevated triglycerides (36% vs 28%; OR, 1.49; 95% CI, 1.39-1.60), hypertension (31% vs 28%; OR, 1.20; 95% CI, 1.11-12.9), and elevated glucose levels (22% vs 16%; OR, 1.44; 95% CI, 1.33-1.56).14 Dermatologists are strongly recommended to inform patients about the risk for metabolic syndrome and to encourage the measurement of blood pressure, waist circumference, fasting blood glucose, hemoglobin A1C, and fasting lipid levels with their PCP when indicated. Body mass index and waist circumference also should be measured annually in patients with moderate to severe psoriasis because of the association with disease severity.
The association between psoriasis and weight loss has been analyzed in several studies. Weight loss, particularly in obese patients, has been shown to improve psoriasis severity, as measured by psoriasis area and severity index score and QOL measures.15 Another study found that gastric bypass was associated with a significant risk reduction in the development of psoriasis (P=.004) and the disease prognosis (P=.02 for severe psoriasis; P=.01 for PsA).16 Therefore, patients with moderate to severe psoriasis are recommended to have their obesity status determined according to national guidelines. For patients with a BMI above 40 kg/m2 and standard weight-loss measures fail, bariatric surgery is recommended. Additionally, the impact of psoriasis medications on weight has been studied. Apremilast has been associated with weight loss, whereas etanercept and infliximab have been linked to weight gain.17,18
An association between psoriasis and hypertension also has been demonstrated by studies, especially among patients with severe disease. Therefore, patients with moderate to severe psoriasis are recommended to have their blood pressure evaluated according to national guidelines, and those with a blood pressure of 140/90 mm Hg or higher should be referred to their PCP for assessment and treatment. Current evidence does not support restrictions on antihypertensive medications in patients with psoriasis. Physicians should be aware of the potential for cyclosporine to induce hypertension, which should be treated, specifically with amlodipine.19
Many studies have demonstrated an association between psoriasis and dyslipidemia, though the results are somewhat conflicting. In 2018, the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology deemed psoriasis as an atherosclerotic CVD risk-enhancing condition, favoring early initiation of statin therapy. Because dyslipidemia plays a prominent role in atherosclerosis and CVD, patients with moderate to severe psoriasis are recommended to undergo periodic screening with lipid tests (eg, fasting total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, triglycerides).20 Patients with elevated fasting triglycerides or low-density lipoprotein cholesterol should be referred to their PCP for further management. Certain psoriasis medications also have been linked to dyslipidemia. Acitretin and cyclosporine are known to adversely affect lipid levels, so patients treated with either agent should undergo routine monitoring of serum lipid levels.
Psoriasis is strongly associated with diabetes mellitus. Because of the increased risk for diabetes in patients with severe disease, regular monitoring of fasting blood glucose and/or hemoglobin A1C levels in patients with moderate to severe psoriasis is recommended. Patients who meet criteria for prediabetes or diabetes should be referred to their PCP for further assessment and management.21,22