MONDAY, June 18, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- People suffering from the autoimmune skin disorder known as psoriasis may face an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, a new study suggests.
"People with psoriasis are at increased risk of developing diabetes that is independent of traditional risk factors like being obese," said lead researcher Dr. Joel Gelfand, associate professor of dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
The risk is highest in those with the most severe psoriasis, and these patients should be screened for diabetes, he said. The reasons for this risk may be genetic, or psoriasis may cause increased insulin resistance, Gelfand said.
He also noted that obesity is a risk factor for psoriasis as well as diabetes. People who develop psoriasis should try to maintain a healthy weight to help prevent diabetes, he said.
The report was published in the June 18 online edition of the journal Archives of Dermatology.
For the study, Gelfand's team collected data on more than 108,000 people with psoriasis listed in the British Health Improvement Network, and compared it with data on more than 430,000 people without the skin disorder.
The researchers found that the risk of developing type 2 diabetes was 11 percent higher for those with mild psoriasis and 46 percent higher for those with severe psoriasis, compared to those who did not have the disorder.
In addition, the researchers found that people with severe psoriasis were more likely to be taking medications for diabetes.
Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory disease of the skin characterized by scaling; it affects 2 percent to 4 percent of adults, the researchers said.
Since both psoriasis and diabetes are partially caused by inflammation in the body, this research may explain the link between them, the researchers speculated. Inflammation can increase insulin resistance, which is a cause of type 2 diabetes, they noted.
Dr. Michele Green, a dermatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said many of her obese psoriasis patients also suffer from diabetes.
"I can tell you that I have seen patients who are obese and their psoriasis is worse and their diabetes is worse -- they go hand-in-hand," she said.
Green said it is not psoriasis that causes diabetes but obesity, which is the root cause of both conditions. Moreover, psoriasis is harder to treat in obese patients, she said. The only way to improve both conditions is to lose weight.
Although this research showed an association between psoriasis and type 2 diabetes, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
For more on diabetes, visit the American Diabetes Association.