Psoriasis May Increase Odds of Type 2 Diabetes

By Chelsea Whyte on June 20, 2012 12:47 AM EDT

doctor with stethoscope
Getting checked for psoriasis? You might want to have your doctor screen you for diabetes as well. (Photo: Creative Commons)

People suffering from the chronic skin disease psoriasis may be at risk for Type 2 diabetes as well, according a new population-based study from the United Kingdom.

Using five years' worth of medical records from over half a million adults in the UK, 108,000 of whom have psoriasis, researchers found that the people with psoriasis were slightly more likely to be diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. None of the participants had diabetes at the onset of the study.

Psoriasis, a chronic inflammatory disease characterized by scaling of the skin, affects 2 percent to 4 percent of the adult population in the UK.  

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"We already know that some of the risk factors for psoriasis and diabetes are similar, like weight," said Dr. Rahat Azfar, the lead author on the study from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

But with the new findings, she told Reuters Health, "We do think that psoriasis itself makes people at higher risk."

The risk is highest in those with the most severe psoriasis, and these patients should be screened for diabetes, said lead researcher Joel Gelfand of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, according to U.S. News & World Report. The reasons for this risk may be genetic, or psoriasis may cause increased insulin resistance, he said.

"Mechanistically, this relationship may be driven by chronic inflammation because both psoriasis and T2DM are associated with elevated levels of TH1-driven inflammatory markers, and because several studies have pointed to endogenous insulin resistance in patients with psoriasis," the authors said.

The data from the study can't be interpreted to say that psoriasis causes Type 2 diabetes, but it does suggest that the skin condition may be a risk factor for the development of diabetes. The numbers also show that the relationship between the two is dose dependent, meaning that severe psoriasis creates a higher risk than mild psoriasis, the authors said. 

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