creators home lifestyle web
Dr. Rallie McAllister


Weighing in Can Bring You Down Like most Americans, I have accumulated an assortment of household gadgets, electronic doo-dads and appliances over the years. I appreciate the fact that most of them make my life far easier than it might be otherwise. I enjoy using these modern …Read more. Cranberry Juice May Help Ward Off Urinary Tract Infections If you're plagued by urinary tract infections, you're in good company. Infections of the kidney and bladder send over 8 million Americans scurrying to their doctors' offices every year. The infections typically occur when bacteria, called …Read more. Baby's Umbilical Cord Blood May Provide Lifesaving Treatments Couples expecting a new baby will face dozens of important decisions and a seemingly endless to-do list. Expectant parents will choose an obstetrician or midwife, a birth center and a car seat for their child. They'll spend hours haggling over baby …Read more. New School Year Brings Rise in Head Lice Cases As children return to the classroom for the beginning of a new school year, their risk of acquiring head lice increases dramatically. The incidence of head lice infestation peaks shortly after school starts, particularly among younger children. Each …Read more.
more articles

Psoriasis Linked to Growing Number of Deadly Diseases


Psoriasis is a potentially devastating skin disease, both physically and emotionally. While the signs of the condition are most visible on the exterior surfaces of the body, the damage that occurs inside the body may be far worse.

Psoriasis is an independent risk factor for a number of seemingly unrelated diseases, including diabetes, heart disease and cancer, according to a rapidly growing body of scientific evidence.

The condition is a relatively common one in the United States, affecting roughly 1 percent to 3 percent of the population. Although it can arise at any age, it usually makes its unwelcome appearance between the ages of 15 and 25.

Typical manifestations of the disease include scaly patches on the skin. Known as psoriatic plaques, these red or silver patches are areas of inflammation and excessive skin production.

Psoriatic plaques may appear anywhere on the body, but often involve the knees, elbows and scalp. When fingernails and toenails are affected, they take on a scarred, pitted appearance.

Psoriasis can also cause inflammation and destruction of the joints. Nearly 15 percent of patients eventually develop a painful and potentially debilitating condition known as psoriatic arthritis.

Although the exact cause of the disease remains a mystery, psoriasis is the result of a dysfunctional immune reaction. Cells of the immune system are somehow incited to attack tissues of the body they are designed to defend.

In the course of their attack, the immune cells release a number of corrosive compounds that lead to irritation and inflammation. The body responds by hastily overproducing immature skin cells in patches that appear as red or silver psoriatic plaques.

The inflammation responsible for ravaging the skin of psoriasis sufferers also wreaks havoc elsewhere in the body, including the cardiovascular system. Inflammation appears to be the primary reason that patients with psoriasis are at greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine demonstrated that psoriasis is an independent risk factor for heart attack. Their findings suggest that adults with severe psoriasis have a significantly greater risk of experiencing a heart attack than those without the skin disease.

A number of studies have demonstrated a greater risk of cancer in psoriasis patients, including squamous cell carcinoma and lymphoma.

While some of this increased cancer risk may come from the disease itself, there's evidence to suggest that specific psoriasis treatments — especially those that suppress the immune system — may be contributing factors.

Psoriasis is linked to a higher risk of developing diabetes and atherosclerosis, also known as hardening of the arteries. In a study that included more than 46,000 psoriasis patients, researchers found that psoriasis sufferers were more likely to have both conditions than individuals without the skin disorder.

Compared to their male counterparts, women with psoriasis between the ages of 35 and 55 appeared to have the greatest risk of developing both diabetes and atherosclerosis. With an elevated risk of developing heart disease, cancer and diabetes, it's no wonder psoriasis sufferers may experience a shorter lifespan.

After studying thousands of individuals, scientists from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine found that patients with severe, untreated psoriasis had a 50 percent greater risk of death than those without the condition. Men with severe psoriasis were found to die 3.5 years earlier than non-affected individuals, while women with the disease typically lost 4.4 years of life.

Fortunately, when psoriasis sufferers receive proper treatment for their skin disorder, their overall health improves. Therapies that reduce inflammation and injury of the skin appear to help reduce inflammation and injury of the cardiovascular system and other tissues throughout the body.

Lifestyle changes are also critical. Many of the strategies employed to reduce the risk of psoriasis can have a positive impact on heart health.

Data collected from more than 116,000 women enrolled in the Nurses Health Study II revealed that women who smoke have a 78 percent greater risk of psoriasis than those who had never smoked. Stopping smoking not only reduces the risk of developing psoriasis, it also lowers the risk of experiencing a heart attack.

Consuming a wholesome, nutritious diet and losing excess weight are also beneficial. Getting plenty of exercise and sleep dramatically improves the health of the skin and the cardiovascular system.

With proper treatment and lifestyle changes, most psoriasis sufferers are delighted to find that they experience dramatic improvements in the appearance of their skin. Even better, they also increase their chances of living a long and healthy life.

Rallie McAllister is a board-certified family physician, speaker and the author of several books, including "Healthy Lunchbox: The Working Mom's Guide to Keeping You and Your Kids Trim." Her website is To find out more about Rallie McAllister, M.D., and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at



3 Comments | Post Comment
I have a horrendous case of scalp psoriasis. What can I do to get rid of it?

In a 3/23/11 letter to Annie's Mailbox in our paper, a guy mentioned that he had heard about a zinc shampoo and conditioner and ordered it, and after 3 days it had worked!! I wish I know what the name of that shampoo was!!

Can you help me?
Comment: #1
Thu Mar 31, 2011 6:08 PM
I have severe psoriasis and am on stelara injections, which has helped, but now I am have kidney problems with
blood in urine, swollen feet ankles and hands, along with swollen eyes when I get up in mornings and just terrible low back pain that really never goes away. I am scheduled for a sonagram tomorrow and the Dr. has me on antibiotics, which hasn't seemed to help afte 7 days. Could this be related to the psoriasis or stelara?
Comment: #2
Posted by: Ali Handeguand
Mon May 16, 2011 2:09 PM
I've suffered from psoriasis for 32 of my 64 years. The only medicines that ever worked for me are methotrexate and cyclosporine. Without them I don't know how I could have coped with the bleeding, pain, itching and depression which have been so horrible. The disease has been so difficult for me I can't describe the agony I've endured throughout my life. Even though the cyclosporine worked miracles the first time I used it, it could only be used for 6 months due to its effects on the kidneys. When I tried it again last year my blood pressure got so high I had to stop. I've been on and off methotrexate for virtually all of these years and I have elevated enzymes and scarring of the liver, but thankfully my doctor still allows me to use it since the biologics didn't work on me at all. Naturally the disease has destroyed the quality of my life. But without the methotrexate I probably would be fixated on suicide since it's just impossible to live in a social setting when I'm surrounded with bloody tissues wherever I sleep. I pray for the sake of others that some day they'll destroy the genetic DNA origins or whatever is responsible for delivering this plague in the near future. I'd rather be penniless than a billionaire with the same severity of psoriasis that I have. It's impossible to achieve happiness when your body is in such a state. But the methotrexate, despite it's only partial efficacy and side effects, is a godsend since it clears about 50% of my lesions, plaques, sores, et al. However had I known I was in store for such a life I would rather never have been born. You can't imagine the physical torment of this disease. And unfortunately when I got older (over 56) my condition got worse, not better and causes even more grief due to other ailments that arise at my age like my high blood pressure and increased depression thanks to the political and economic disasters of the 21st Century. I feel like a leper and have no means of relief unless I wanted to become a drug addict like Dennis Potter in order to cope, which is out of the question. If the ancient Spartans knew their offspring would suffer this disease they would have thrown their babies off the roof, the prognosis for a decent life being so minimal, especially without methotrexate.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Don
Fri Dec 9, 2011 11:25 PM
Already have an account? Log in.
New Account  
Your Name:
Your E-mail:
Your Password:
Confirm Your Password:

Please allow a few minutes for your comment to be posted.

Enter the numbers to the right: comments policy
Other similar columns
Dr. David Lipschitz
Lifelong Health
by Dr. David Lipschitz
William Moyers
Beyond Addiction
by William Moyers

Dr. Rallie McAllister
Sep. `10
Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa
29 30 31 1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 1 2
About the author About the author
Write the author Write the author
Printer friendly format Printer friendly format
Email to friend Email to friend
View by Month