RIO GRANDE, P.R. – Treating psoriasis patients earlier in life could help prevent later physical and psychological problems, according to Dr. Alexa B. Kimball.
"We used to think that we should save our therapies until our patients really needed them, because we were afraid that toxicity might accumulate," Dr. Kimball said at the annual Caribbean Dermatology Symposium. However, that thinking has changed, thanks in part to the availability of safer treatment options.
But of equal importance, "treating patients early in their disease may have an impact that affects the rest of their lives," including jobs, education, socioeconomic status, and curbing the development of health problems like obesity, cardiovascular disease, and psychiatric disorders, she said.
The quality of life issues associated with psoriasis are well known, but recent data confirm that physical and mental comorbidities start in childhood.
According to recent data from the National Psoriasis Foundation, 38% of children with psoriasis reported being bullied because of their condition, noted Dr. Kimball of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, both in Boston.
Another study found that approximately one-third of children aged 4-17 years with psoriasis had a body mass index greater than the 95th percentile (N. Engl. J. Med. 2008;358:241-51). Conditions such as childhood obesity are not easily managed, and have significant implications for future health, she said.
In a retrospective study of 7,404 psoriasis patients younger than 18 years and 37,020 healthy controls, children with psoriasis were significantly more likely than controls to develop any psychiatric disorder (5% vs. 4%), depression (3% vs. 2%), and anxiety (2% vs. 1%), Dr. Kimball and her colleagues found (J. Am. Acad. Dermatol. 2012 Jan. 16 [doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2011.11.948]).
And the likelihood of comorbidities in psoriasis patients continues as they grow up, she said. "Chronic disease interacts with psychosocial and health events in a complex and ongoing manner throughout a person’s life."
Comorbidities in psoriasis patients appear to accumulate over time. Dr. Kimball cited data from the Nurses’ Health Study II, a cohort including more than 100,000 women who were aged 27-44 years in 1991. In a subset of 1,813 women with psoriasis, the risk of diabetes was approximately 60% higher, and the risk of hypertension was almost 20% higher, compared with women without psoriasis (Arch. Dermatol. 2009;145:379-82).
In a case-control study conducted by Dr. Kimball and her colleagues, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, hyperlipidemia, hypertension, and obesity all increased significantly in psoriasis patients, compared with healthy controls, over a 4-year follow-up period (J. Am. Acad. Dermatol. 2010;62[suppl. 1]:AB3).
These findings suggest that medical comorbidities associated with psoriasis accumulate over time; therefore, aggressive treatment of psoriasis in younger patients could improve their psychological and physical quality of life, Dr. Kimball said. Although there are no recommendations for additional health screening for psoriasis patients beyond the age-recommended preventive health measures, "younger patients especially need to be monitored for psychiatric issues," she said. And these patients should be kept up to date on vaccinations, particularly the annual flu vaccine and the human papillomavirus vaccine.
Dr. Kimball reported receiving grants, honoraria, consulting fees, and other support from Abbott, Amgen, and Janssen Pharmaceuticals.