What Diseases Are Linked to Plaque Psoriasis?

Learn About Common Complications of Plaque Psoriasis

Arrows pointing to joints on outline of human body
Lizzie Roberts / Getty Images

Chronic plaque psoriasis runs more than skin deep. In fact, up to 30 percent of people with plaque psoriasis develop a disease of the joints (known as psoriatic arthritis).

In addition, there are a number of other serious health conditions linked to psoriasis like:

  • obesity
  • metabolic syndrome
  • type 2 diabetes
  • heart disease
  • cancer
  • inflammatory bowel disease
  • depression

Obesity and the Metabolic Syndrome

Research suggests a link between obesity and psoriasis with studies revealing an increased prevalence (commonness) of obesity in people with psoriasis.

In addition, there is also a link between a person's psoriasis severity and their weight. This means the more severe a person's psoriasis, the higher their weight tends to be—although this is not a hard and fast rule, simply a trend that scientists have found.

The "why" behind the connection between psoriasis and obesity is uncertain. But, many experts believe that the chronic inflammatory state of both obesity and psoriasis are somehow intertwined, one potentially feeding off the other.

In addition, experts have found that people with severe psoriasis have higher glucose levels and higher triglyceride levels (a type of "bad" cholesterol), as compared to those with milder psoriasis. High triglycerides and a high blood glucose level are part of the criteria for diagnosing metabolic syndrome—a health condition that puts people at risk for developing type II diabetes and heart disease.

What Does This Mean for Me?

The bottom line here is that just because a connection exists between psoriasis and obesity (and the metabolic syndrome) does not mean that one directly causes the other. Rather, it's likely a complicated relationship with multiple layers. Other factors could be influencing these links like diet, exercise, alcohol use, and a person's genetic makeup.

It's important to understand too that because you have chronic plaque psoriasis does not mean you are destined to be obese. On the same note, being obese does not mean you are going to develop psoriasis. In fact, your chances are quite low, unless you have other risk factors, like a significant family history of plaque psoriasis.

Instead, use this knowledge not to scare you but to inspire you to engage in healthy lifestyle habits like:

  • exercising daily
  • eating a well-balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in saturated fats
  • avoiding unhealthy habits like smoking or excessive alcohol use

Your healthy habits will help you maintain a normal weight and will also help your heart—and as research evolves on this topic, it looks like your skin too.

Heart Disease

Research suggests a link between psoriasis and cardiovascular disease—a condition that affects major arteries in your brain and heart and can lead to stroke or a heart attack. In fact, there is also evidence that psoriasis can increase a person's chance of dying from a heart attack or stroke, as compared to someone without psoriasis.

Although, like obesity, the precise link between psoriasis and heart disease is still unclear. While a disease-related inflammatory state could explain the relationship, it could also be that people with psoriasis tend to engage in heart-harming behaviors (like smoking or sedentary lifestyle) due to the stress and social isolation of their condition.


Several studies have found an increased risk of cancer in people with psoriasis, especially cancer of the mouth and throat, colon, lung, and kidney. Lymphoma and nonmelanoma skin cancers (for example, squamous cell carcinoma) are also more common in people with psoriasis.

Experts used to believe that certain psoriasis therapies were linked to this increased cancer risk, but recent research suggests this is not the case. In other words, the higher cancer risk seems to be linked to psoriasis (the disease) itself.

What Does This Mean for Me?

Be sure to undergo regular cancer screenings (for example, mammogram, colonoscopy). A primary care physician can help you sort out which screening tests you need and when you need them based on your medical problems and family history.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

In people with chronic plaque psoriasis, there is a higher risk of them developing Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, and this risk is higher the more severe the psoriasis is. This link goes the other way too, meaning people with inflammatory bowel disease have an increased risk of developing plaque psoriasis.

Again, a link exists but experts are scratching their heads as to why. Can an inflammatory state in the body explain the link, or do shared lifestyle habits like smoking explain it? (We know smoking worsens Crohn's disease).

What Does This Mean for Me?

Pay attention to any stomach or intestinal issues if you or loved one has psoriasis and bring up concerns like fatigue or diarrhea to your doctor. Of course, if you have more worrisome signs, like blood in your stool or severe stomach cramping, seek medical attention right away.


You may be surprised to learn that psoriasis severity does not correlate with the effect it has on a person's quality of life or mood. A person can have mild plaques but feel very sad and isolated. On the other hand, a person with extensive plaques on their body may function and cope well in their life.

What does this mean for me?

If you are losing interest in activities you once enjoyed or feeling down for the majority of days, be sure to seek out help from a doctor. You could be suffering from depression. The good news is that depression can be treated, usually with a combination of medication and therapy.

A Word From Verywell

If you or a loved one have plaque psoriasis, it may be disheartening to learn about all the other health conditions linked to it. That being said, treating psoriasis may actually help the linked condition, as in the case of depression and heart disease.

The big picture here is to not get too bogged down by the details. Instead, use this knowledge as motivation to stay on top of your skin and overall health by closely following with your dermatologist and primary care physician.


Abuabara K, Azfar RS, Shin DB, Neimann AL, Troxel AB, Gelfand JM. Cause-specific mortality in patients with severe psoriasis: a population-based cohort study in the U.K. Br J Dermatol. 2010 Sep;163(3):586-92.

Armstrong AW, Harskamp CT, Armstrong EJ. The association between psoriasis and obesity a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. Nutr Diabetes. 2012 Dec 3;2:e54.

Cohen BE, Martires KJ, Ho RS. Psoriasis and the Risk of Depression in the US Population: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2009-2012. JAMA Dermatol. 2016 Jan;152(1):73-9.

Egeberg A et al. Association between psoriasis and inflammatory bowel disease: a Danish nationwide cohort study. Br J Dermatol. 2016 Sep;175(3):487-92.

Kimball AB, Schendeld J, Accortt NA, Anthony MS, Rothman KJ, Pariser D. Incidence rates of malignancies and hospitalized infectious events in patients with psoriasis with or without treatment and a general population in the U.S.A.:2005-09. Br J Dermatol. 2014 Feb;170(2):366-73.

Continue Reading