The skin condition psoriasis has a well-known connection to heart health. Unfortunately, the inflammation that underlies the skin-level manifestation of psoriasis also affects areas deep within the body: including the arteries leading out of the heart. This is why people with psoriasis have an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. In fact, those with severe psoriasis are at twice the risk of an early heart attack (meaning at age 40-50).
Sounds scary. I know. But, here’s some positive news. Treating psoriasis with biologic therapies, such as tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors, can mitigate this heart health risk. A new study followed 209 patients with severe psoriasis; some patients were treated with topical medications and others took biologic therapy. All of the patients were monitored in terms of heart health with imaging of their coronary arteries.
Here’s where it gets interesting: the patients on biologic treatment showed improvement in terms of plaque on their arteries over the year-long study. Specifically, plaque progression was reduced by 6% in the biologic group, while by way of comparison, the patients on topical medications experienced a 2% increase in plaque. This means that biologics led to an improvement of heart health and a reduced risk of heart attack. This heart benefit was on par with the heart protection seen from the use of a low-dose statin, which is amazing news for psoriasis patients.
Elnabawi YA, Dey AK, Goyal A, et al. Coronary artery plaque characteristics and treatment with biologic therapy in severe psoriasis: results from a prospective observational study. Cardiovascular Res 2019; https://doi.org/10.1093/cvr/cvz009.