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Multiple Links Between Psoriasis & Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Posted Jan 05 2011 10:24pm

Believe it or not, your skin is considered an end organ, meaning that it’s at the outermost reaches of your blood supply. It’s also a part of your body which can be deprived of blood flow if you’re under stress, similar to what happens to your digestive or reproductive systems.

Psoriasis is a common skin condition that affects about 34 million Americans, or about 3% of the population. It’s characterized by red, scaly patches of skin covered by white flakes. It’s thought to be a chronic autoimmune condition, where your body’s immune system can attack or damage your own tissues.

I’ve written before about strong links between psoriasis and obstructive sleep apnea, but here are a series of studies that further solidifies this connection. Some of the studies I’ve cited before. Others are new:

Metabolic syndrome (Syndrome X) is a combination of high blood pressure, insulin resistance, and high cholesterol levels. Having all three conditions has been shown to significantly increase your risk of heart disease, heart attack, or stroke. Numerous studies show that people with metabolic syndrome can also have obstructive sleep apnea. In fact, syndrome Z has been described as all the features of Syndrome X plus obstructive sleep apnea.

A study published in Archives of Dermatology showed that patients with psoriasis had a higher chance of having metabolic syndrome compared to people who didn’t (40% vs. 23). I’ve written in the past about how chronic physiologic stress due to sleep apnea causes diversion of blood flow and nutrients to the bowels, reproductive organs, and the skin, since they’re considered “low priority” organs. Low blood flow causes a relative hypoxia, creating oxidative stress, and along with a heightened immune system, so it’s not surprising that the skin can show psoriatic plaques.

Here’s a study showed that women who drank more than two alcoholic beverages per week had a significantly higher risk of psoriasis. Alcohol relaxes your throat muscles, aggravating sleep apnea.

Researchers from harvard showed that comorbid conditions such as cardiovascular disease, depression, diabetes, obesity, and hyperlipidemia all increased over time. Not too surprising if you already have sleep apnea.

Pregnant women with psoriasis were found by Harvard and Mass General researchers to have higher risk of pregnancy-related complications, including spontaneous abortion, preterm birth, preeclampsia, placenta previa, and ectopic pregnancy. Gaining weight can aggravate sleep apnea. Studies show that CPAP can help with preeclampsia.

People with psoriasis were found to have increased risk of depression (39%), anxiety (31%) and suicidal thoughts (44%). Sleep apnea can cause structural, metabolic, and biochemical changes in your brain due to hypoxia.

And lastly, young adults who are obese were found to have a higher risk of developing psoriatic arthritis later in life. Obesity is a major risk factor for obstructive sleep apnea.

Perhaps psoriasis should be placed on the ever-growing list of complications of obstructive sleep apnea. What do you think?

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