Psoriasis is a skin disorder that produces red, scaly patches to appear on the skin. It is an autoimmune disorder wherein the body’s tissues produce antibodies against itself. It can be triggered by severe cold weather, stress, infections, and cold. The most common characteristic feature is the leathery appearance of the skin, common on the elbows, knees, scalp, or the shin.
While it is predominantly a skin problem, it is believed that the scaly patches can appear on the internal organs, especially the lungs. People with psoriasis are supposedly at higher risk for some lung diseases as listed below. It is therefore important to educate those with psoriasis about respiratory symptoms to watch out for, especially when psoriasis is likely to get worse.
Lung Conditions with Psoriasis
Though not totally established, it has been shown that psoriasis increases the risk of the following lung conditions.
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: This condition with generalized inflammation of the lungs can lead to difficulty in breathing, chest pressure/pain, wheezing, and frequent respiratory infections. It has been proven that psoriatic patients have a greater chance of developing COPD – greater the severity of psoriasis, the greater the likelihood of COPD.
- Pulmonary sarcoidosis: Sarcoidosis causes lumps to form in the organs, which are known as granulomas, and is believed to be due to generalized inflammation. The patient would have a dry cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, and wheezing. The linkage between the severity of psoriasis and the likelihood of developing sarcoidosis is quite well established.
- Interstitial lung disease (ILD): The connective tissue between the lung tissue gets inflamed, leading to ILD. There is a gradual hardening and scarring of the tissue due to increased fibrous formations. Needless to say, the lung loses its elasticity and causes difficulty in breathing, additional strain, and reduced energy levels.
How are These Two Connected?
There are two explanations for this linkage.
- Psoriasis is believed to be related to insulin resistance, which often leads to metabolic syndrome with increased blood pressure, blood sugar, and obesity. This can lead to generalized inflammation, including the lungs, which is a common factor in the above lung conditions.
- Another theory suggests that the steroids and other immunosuppressants used in the treatment of psoriasis lead to these lung infections.
Signs to Watch Out for
Psoriasis is a chronic condition and often is not limited to the skin alone. Patients should be warned to watch out for symptoms that could be indicative of lung involvement. These symptoms include:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Chronic production of sputum
The risk of developing lung diseases is increased when there is a genetic angle to it, with advanced age, smoking, and exposure to irritants.
Though the linkage between psoriasis and lungs is not fully established yet, it is recommended for the psoriatic patients to take preventive steps to prevent lung diseases.