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SAN FRANCISCO (March 5, 2009) – On the surface, the thick, red, scaly, itchy
plaques of psoriasis – which have been shown to have a significant negative impact on
a person’s overall quality of life – may not appear to pose a serious health risk for
patients. However, a growing body of research suggests that psoriasis patients are at
an increased risk of developing serious medical conditions, including cardiovascular
disease and diabetes, particularly when their psoriasis is severe.
       Speaking today at the 67th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of
Dermatology (Academy), dermatologist Joel M. Gelfand, MD, MSCE, FAAD, assistant
professor of dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in
Philadelphia, spoke about this complex skin condition and its relationship to other
serious medical conditions.
       Dr. Gelfand explained that for the last two decades, research has shown that
excessive inflammation is a critical feature of psoriasis. This discovery has led to
innovative approaches to treating psoriasis, with therapies targeting selected areas of
the immune system that are over-active in psoriasis patients. Excess inflammation also
is present in other common conditions, such as hardening of the arteries, heart attacks,
stroke, obesity and diabetes – which may explain why some psoriasis patients may be
at an increased risk for developing these other serious conditions.
       Studies show the link between patients with severe psoriasis and diabetes, heart
attack and coronary artery disease occurs independent of traditional risk factors for
these other conditions – such as obesity, smoking or high blood pressure.
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Psoriasis and Link to Medical Conditions
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       Furthermore, Dr. Gelfand’s recent research suggests that patients with severe
psoriasis may have shorter life expectancies than non-psoriasis patients. Specifically,
he found that those with severe psoriasis may die three to five years earlier than
patients who do not have the disease.
       “Patient education is critical in the early detection and management of these
related conditions, many of which can be controlled with proper medical care,” said Dr.
Gelfand. To minimize the risk of developing associated medical conditions, Dr. Gelfand
recommended that psoriasis patients lead a healthy lifestyle, avoid smoking, maintain
an ideal body weight and get routine screenings for cardiovascular risk factors – such
as blood pressure and cholesterol checks.
       “We need to educate psoriasis patients about the increased risk of
cardiovascular disease so the prevention efforts can be instituted,” explained Dr.
       Experts in the dermatology and cardiology communities have issued consensus
statements advocating that physicians educate patients with psoriasis – particularly if
the disease is severe – about the potential association of psoriasis with other serious
diseases, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
       Dr. Gelfand added that further research is needed to better determine how skin
disease severity and activity affect the risk of developing these associated conditions
and whether successful treatment of psoriasis alters the risks.
About Psoriasis
       Psoriasis affects nearly 7 million Americans and can start at any age, although it
most commonly starts in early adulthood (20s and 30s). Psoriasis has a genetic
component, as approximately 40 percent of patients with psoriasis have a family history
of the disease. While the exact cause of psoriasis is unknown, it is believed to occur
due to an interaction of multiple genes, the immune system and the environment,
according to Dr. Gelfand. The disease can be localized, affecting only the elbows or
scalp, or can involve skin on the entire body.
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Psoriasis and Link to Medical Conditions
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       To learn more about psoriasis, visit the PsoriasisNet section of, a Web site developed by dermatologists that provides
patients with up-to-date information on the treatment and management of disorders of
the skin, hair and nails.
       Headquartered in Schaumburg, Ill., the American Academy of Dermatology
(Academy), founded in 1938, is the largest, most influential, and most representative of
all dermatologic associations. With a membership of more than 15,000 physicians
worldwide, the Academy is committed to: advancing the diagnosis and medical, surgical
and cosmetic treatment of the skin, hair and nails; advocating high standards in clinical
practice, education, and research in dermatology; and supporting and enhancing patient
care for a lifetime of healthier skin, hair and nails. For more information, contact the
Academy at 1-888-462-DERM (3376) or

Jennifer Allyn                  Allison Sit
(847) 240-1730                  (847) 240-1746        

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