If you have psoriasis-as millions of Americans do-the scaly, itchy patches of skin on your scalp and/or other body parts aren't the only health problems to be concerned about.
And I'm not talking about the well-known increased risks, such as the risks for heart attack, stroke, arthritis and certain cancers.
There's yet another disease to add to the already long list.
A recent study found that people with psoriasis are at increased risk for also developing type 2 diabetes-even if they don't have any of the risk factors that are common to both diseases, such as obesity. And the more severe the psoriasis, the greater the risk of type 2 diabetes.
How much extra risk do you have? In the study, people with mild psoriasis had an 11% greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes, compared with those who did not have psoriasis... and people with moderate-to-severe psoriasis had a 46% higher risk.
The Common Thread: Inflammation
"Both diseases are caused by chronic inflammation," said senior study author Joel Gelfand, MD, "and we think that the same inflammation that causes psoriasis also prevents the body from responding to insulin as well as it should, which is what leads to type 2 diabetes."
A Two-Part To-Do List
So if you have psoriasis, what does this mean for you?
First of all: It's important to get regular blood sugar screenings to test for type 2 diabetes, since the earlier you find out that you have diabetes, the easier it is to keep it in check. "If you have psoriasis, I recommend beginning blood sugar screenings at age 18 and then getting checked at least every three years after that-depending on your particular health conditions and what your doctor advises," he said. For many people, blood sugar is checked as part of their annual physical.
"Think of your psoriasis as a window into what's happening in your body," he continued. "Those rashes on your skin aren't necessarily just exterior problems-they may be a sign of other metabolic issues that are happening in the interior of your bloodstream."
Second of all: In the meantime, do everything you can to help prevent (or at least delay) type 2 diabetes from developing. That means-you guessed it-following a healthy diet, exerc1smg regularly and losing excess weight, Dr. Gelfand said.
He also stressed that these recommendations are especially important for people with psoriasis who are 40 or older because the risk of developing diabetes increases with age.
Does reducing psoriasis symptoms lower your risk of type 2 diabetes? "There is some evidence that it might help, so it's worth a shot, but scientists don't yet know," he said.