Harvard Heart Letter

Special section: Cardiovascular connections: Psoriasis is more than skin deep

Special section: Cardiovascular connections

Psoriasis is more than skin deep

Cardiologists have long looked to the skin for outward signs of heart disease. Yellowish pimple-like eruptions signal a cholesterol-processing disorder. Drumstick-like swelling of the tips of the fingers and toes can warn of infective endocarditis. Bluish lips and cheeks can be a tip-off of trouble with the mitral valve.

A burgeoning body of research suggests that psoriasis (sore-EYE-uh-sis) is somehow linked to heart disease. About five million Americans have this lifelong skin disorder. There are five different types. The most common, plaque psoriasis, usually starts as round or oval patches of red, scaly skin. These itchy patches of dead and dying skin cells tend to appear on the elbows, knees, scalp, or buttocks, but can spread across the body.

Rather than being a dermatologic disease, psoriasis is a disorder of the immune system that happens to play out on the skin. In people with this condition, T cells, which normally protect the body from infection by fighting off foreign bacteria and viruses, also attack skin cells.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »