It would seem to be an unlikely connection, but now researchers are fairly confident in saying that women with psoriasis face a higher-than-average risk of Crohn's disease. The connection has occasionally been observed by medical practitioners over the years.
Doctors have noticed that women with psoriasis -- a chronic, inflammatory skin condition that typically affects the elbows, knees, scalp and trunk -- sometimes go on to develop Crohn's disease, one of the two major inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD).
The new data on a psoriasis-IBD link, compiled from two studies at Harvard and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, were announced at a recent Society for Investigative Dermatology meeting.
Dr. Abrar A. Qureshi, senior researcher for both studies, noted that even though the results are preliminary and await publication in a peer-reviewed journal, the overlap between the two conditions is beginning to make sense.
"The inflammatory pathways that have been identified at the genetic level in genome-wide association studies make sense as well because there is overlap in the interleukin-12 and interleukin-23 pathways in psoriasis and Crohn's disease," Qureshi told MedPage Today.
Specifically, the data showed that women with psoriasis had a four-fold increase in the risk of Crohn's disease. In addition, one of the studies showed a 13 percent prevalence rate for psoriasis among patients presenting with IBD.
Data came from the more than 174,000 participants in the years-long Nurses' Health Study (NHS) and NHS II.
The researchers also looked at inflammatory/psoriatic arthritis in relation to IBD and psoriasis and theorized that all have a common pathway at the genetic and molecular level.
In comparisons of those having or not having psoriasis, the data showed that the psoriasis population tended to be older, with a higher body mass index and a history of smoking. Also, they were less active and consumed more alcohol.
As any health professional will tell you, both psoriasis and Crohn's disease are chronic conditions meriting a doctor's attention.
Crohn's disease is marked by inflammation, ulcers and bleeding in the small intestine and/or colon, sometimes spreading to other parts of the digestive tract. Patients experience bowel problems, fatigue, loss of appetite, fever and weakness.
The psoriasis section of the Mayo Clinic website notes that the skin condition can often be debilitating and painful, sometimes causing severe itching that leads to bacterial infections and thickened skin.
The Mayo also lists several complications of psoriasis and includes the possibility of inflammatory bowel disease.
"Psoriasis: Complications." Mayo Clinic. Web. 13 June 2012.
Bankhead, Charles. "Studies Support IBD, Psoriasis Connection." MedPage Today. Web. 13 June 2012.
"Definition of Crohn's disease." Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America. Web. 13 June 2012.
Reviewed June 14, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith