People who suffer from severe psoriasis die younger than people with mild cases or without the disease, for reasons that are unclear, researchers said on Monday.
"Patients with severe psoriasis should receive comprehensive health assessments to enhance preventive health practices, improve overall health and decrease the risk" of death, said a study team led by Dr. Joel Gelfand of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia.
A review of health records involving thousands of people in the United Kingdom between 1987 and 2002 found that men with severe psoriasis died an average of 3.5 years earlier than men without the condition, while women with severe psoriasis died 4.4 years earlier than psoriasis-free women.
No increased risk of death was found for those with mild forms of the disease.
Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory disease of the skin and joints. In the most severe cases, red scaly patches or lesions can cover most of the body, though most cases are not severe.
"We did not determine why patients with severe psoriasis died at higher rates than patients without (it)," concluded the researchers, whose report was published in the Archives of Dermatology.
The authors said people who have severe cases also have higher rates of smoking, obesity, high blood pressure and certain cancers, which could help explain the higher death rate.
"Severe psoriasis itself can lead to death in very rare instances, as could cumulative toxicity ... and reactions to systemic psoriasis therapies," they wrote.
Further studies are needed to determine what's going on, the researchers concluded.