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Published: February 23, 2021

6 Facts about the Link

  • Inflammation is thought to play a role in the development of psoriasis, as well as other conditions like arthritis, heart disease, and depression.
  • In some cases, treating the underlying inflammation may help manage both psoriasis and the risk of related inflammatory conditions.
  • Many people with psoriasis find that switching to an anti-inflammatory diet can help with psoriasis management, though research is mixed.

Inflammation can be a symptom of an overactive immune system. It’s thought to play a role in the development of psoriasis.

People who live with psoriasis may have other health conditions connected to inflammation. Reducing inflammation throughout the body can help relieve psoriasis symptoms and improve overall health.

If you’re living with psoriasis, here are some key facts about inflammation and how it may affect you, plus steps you can take to boost your well-being.

Normally, the body naturally uses inflammation to help heal itself. Acute inflammation happens in response to injury. If you stub your toe, it becomes red and swollen as the body sends a rush of white blood cells to protect the area.

With an overactive immune system, inflammation attacks both injured cells and healthy ones. This is known as chronic inflammation, which can contribute to many health issues like arthritis, heart disease, and psoriasis.

Psoriasis is a skin disease that causes itchy plaques or scaly bumps to develop on the skin. It can affect any area of your body, but these plaques commonly pop up on elbows, knees, and scalp.

Normally, your body grows and sheds new skin cells in a month. With psoriasis, the underlying inflammatory response speeds up skin cell growth. As a result, the body produces new skin cells every few days. These cells then build up on the skin’s surface and turn into psoriasis plaques and scaly bumps.

Cytokines are the body’s agents that cause this immune response. If psoriasis is poorly controlled, the body’s levels of inflammatory cytokines go up. The inflammatory response is often easy to spot with skin plaques.

But there’s more going on under the surface. These cytokines also work systematically throughout the body and can affect your organs, muscles, and tendons. This is most pronounced in moderate to severe psoriasis but also occurs in mild psoriasis.

Because inflammation affects many parts of the body, people with psoriasis may also experience other inflammation-related health conditions.

If you experience psoriasis along with anxiety or depression, you’re not alone. It’s thought that 43 percent of people with psoriasis also have anxiety. An estimated 20 to 30 percent of people with psoriasis are thought to be affected by depression (and that rate may even be as high as 62 percent).

There are a number of reasons why this correlation exists. One academic paper noted that there may be a close connection between depression and inflammation. Depression and negative experiences can trigger a stress response in the body, which increases inflammation. The inflammation can then exacerbate symptoms of depression.

The paper further noted that people with depression have higher levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines by 30 percent in comparison to those who don’t experience depression.

About 7 to 20 percent of people with psoriasis also experience uveitis, an inflammatory eye condition. Both conditions are related to the same type of inflammatory cytokines.

Many doctors treat uveitis with corticosteroid eye drops or oral corticosteroids. Advanced cases may also be treated with immunosuppressive drugs.

Some research argues that targeted biologic therapies intended for psoriasis may help improve both conditions. An expert writing for the Arthritis Foundation notes that while possible, it has not been proven that controlling the underlying disease helps prevent uveitis.

People with psoriasis may have a greater risk of asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), sarcoidosis, interstitial lung disease, and lung cancer.

But the connection between psoriasis and lung conditions isn’t as simple as underlying inflammation. On average, people with psoriasis have more risk factors that independently contribute to respiratory issues, such as smoking, having obesity, and being sedentary.

Some of the drugs used to treat psoriasis may also have respiratory side effects. Immunosuppressant medications can increase your risk of respiratory infections.

One small study also found that 2 percent of people with psoriasis taking biologic treatment over a 9-year period developed a serious lung disease known as interstitial pneumonia (IP), though it’s unclear if the biologic treatment played a role in the development of IP.

Work with your doctor to consider your risk of lung disease and balance the benefits of psoriasis treatment with the risks of respiratory side effects.

Though research is mixed, many people with psoriasis have found that making changes to their diet has helped with psoriasis management.

While more research is needed, if you’re looking to make changes to your diet, a good place to start is by avoiding inflammatory foods and eating more anti-inflammatory foods.

Foods to eat

Typical foods that are part of an anti-inflammatory diet include:

  • green leafy vegetables
  • nuts
  • olive oil
  • tomatoes
  • fatty fish
  • fruit

Foods to avoid

Examples of inflammatory foods to skip when following an anti-inflammatory diet include:

  • refined carbohydrates, like white bread
  • fried foods
  • sweetened beverages, like soda
  • red meat and processed meat
  • margarine and shortening

Though evidence is limited to support an exact diet for psoriasis, eating a balanced diet is important for your overall health.

As an added bonus, you may experience benefits to your psoriasis as well as any underlying inflammatory-related conditions when following an anti-inflammatory diet.

Inflammation is thought to play a role in psoriasis. Due to the systemic nature of inflammation in the body, people with psoriasis may also experience a number of inflammatory-related health conditions.

Taking steps to reduce inflammation, such as through diet, can limit its effects on your body. It may also help reduce symptoms of psoriasis and related health conditions.

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