November is National Diabetes Month and the roughly 3.75 million men in the U.S. with psoriasis—the most common autoimmune disease in the country, affecting roughly 7.5 million Americans—are at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
According to a 2012 study by University of Pennsylvania researchers, people with psoriasis—especially severe forms of the disease—have a greater-than-average risk of diabetes even if they don’t have traditional diabetes risk factors, such as obesity. Another study from University of California, Davis also found a correlation between psoriasis and diabetes.
What is Psoriasis?
According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, psoriasis is a chronic, noncontagious disease of the immune system that appears on the skin, causing it to crack, itch and bleed. Despite its prevalence, psoriasis is widely misunderstood—even by people with the condition.
Research shows that psoriasis is a serious disease that causes whole-body inflammation, which affects other parts of the body. Psoriasis is associated with an increased risk for a number of health conditions, including high blood pressure, obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
The Diabetes Connection
The University of Pennsylvania study found that people with severe psoriasis, covering more than 10 percent of the body, were 46 percent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. Mild psoriasis resulted in an 11 percent increase in diabetes.
Whole-body inflammation is present in both psoriasis and diabetes, which may explain the link between the two diseases. The researchers note that inflammation can result in insulin resistance, another cause of type 2 diabetes.
At UC Davis, researchers analyzed five studies that tracked diabetes-free people over time and found that people with psoriasis were 27 percent more likely to develop diabetes than those without psoriasis.
In addition to whole-body inflammation, people with psoriasis are prone to obesity and depression, and are less physically active, on average, than those without the condition. These factors could all contribute to psoriasis patients’ underlying diabetes risk.
Get Screened and Know the Risk Factors
People with psoriasis should be screened by their doctor for type 2 diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), symptoms of type 2 diabetes include:
- Frequent urination
- Unusual thirst
- Extreme hunger
- Unusual weight loss
- Extreme fatigue and irritability
- Frequent infections
- Blurred vision
- Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal
- Tingling/numbness in the hands/feet
- Recurring skin, gum, or bladder infections
ADA also notes that people with type 2 diabetes often have no symptoms. Therefore, it’s important for psoriasis patients to work closely with their doctors to reduce their diabetes risk, such as by eating a healthy diet, getting consistent exercise and having regular screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar.
Learn more about psoriasis and diabetes at www.psoriasis.org.