Research strongly suggests that people with psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis have a higher chance of asthma, and vice versa, especially later in life.

Psoriasis is an inflammatory skin condition characterized by outbreaks of dry, itchy scales. Psoriatic arthritis typically develops after psoriasis and causes symptoms like joint swelling and pain.

Asthma is an inflammatory lung condition that causes difficulty breathing.

There’s a wealth of research to suggest a bidirectional relationship between these conditions. This means that people with either form of psoriasis are more likely to have asthma, and vice versa.

Psoriasis is also linked to a higher chance of developing other lung conditions, like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), especially later in life.

Here’s what else to know about the connection between these two common conditions.

In general, research strongly suggests that having psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis significantly increases your chance of having asthma, and vice versa.

In a large 2023 review of nearly 111,000 people with psoriasis and over 1 million control participants, researchers found that about 9.2% of those with psoriasis had asthma. This risk increased among older participants and those with moderate to severe psoriasis.

The researchers concluded that there’s a strong bidirectional relationship between asthma and psoriasis.

Other research echoes this finding. According to a large 2018 meta-analysis of over 66,000 people with psoriasis and 577,000 control participants, having psoriasis was significantly linked to a higher chance of having asthma as well. Those over 50 years old with psoriasis were particularly susceptible.

Why are asthma and psoriasis linked?

Scientists think this could be due to a genetic connection. In a 2019 review, researchers noted that asthma and psoriasis have a common “immunophenotype,” or pattern of immune cells, proteins, and molecules that drive inflammation in a condition.

They both share the immunophenotype called non-type 2 IL-17A pathway, which could explain why someone with psoriasis is more likely to have asthma.

Some limited research also suggests that having psoriatic arthritis could have an even more severe effect on the lungs than regular psoriasis. In a small 2020 study of 164 people, researchers found that those with psoriatic arthritis had higher levels of inflammation in the lungs than those with regular psoriasis.

While more research is needed, people with psoriatic arthritis may especially want to avoid smoking and take measures to protect their lung and airway health.

That said, researchers in a 2018 study concluded that those with regular psoriasis also had higher levels of lung and airway inflammation. As a result, they recommended that people with psoriasis seek regular respiratory health monitoring with a healthcare professional.

People with psoriasis are more likely to develop other lung conditions besides asthma, including:

Psoriasis and lung conditions are both characterized by chronic inflammation, scientists in a 2022 review noted, which may explain the link. But so far, researchers haven’t been able to confirm this.

There’s currently no known cure for asthma or psoriasis. But there are ways to manage both conditions.

Overlapping treatments for both asthma and psoriasis include:

  • corticosteroids, either topical or inhaled, which target underlying inflammation
  • biologics, which target an overzealous immune system

Avoiding triggers — including cigarette smoke for those with asthma, alcohol for those with psoriasis, and stress for both groups — is also a key component of treating either condition.

Treatments for asthma, in particular, include:

  • allergy shots, which reduce the body’s response to allergens
  • leukotriene modifiers, which are oral medications that reduce inflammation and help open the airways
  • inhaled mast cell stabilizers, which help prevent airway swelling around triggers
  • inhaled long-acting bronchodilators, which are medications you add to your inhaler that prevent the airways from narrowing

Treatments for psoriasis, in particular, include:

  • topical therapies like creams, ointments, and lotions, especially containing corticosteroids, retinoids, and coal tar
  • oral retinoids, or vitamin A derivatives, which may be especially helpful in combination with phototherapy to reduce outbreaks
  • biologic response modifiers, which are injectable medications to reduce inflammation
  • immunosuppressants, which can be helpful in severe cases to hinder the immune response
  • oral phosphodiesterase 4 or oral tyrosine kinase 2 inhibitors, which target the immune response and underlying inflammation

Treatments to avoid

Asthma treatments that could potentially worsen psoriasis risk or symptoms include:

  • Methotrexate: Some limited research suggests that methotrexate, a common medication for severe psoriasis and other autoimmune conditions, may potentially worsen asthma symptoms.

Psoriasis treatments that could worsen asthma risk or symptoms include:

  • Phototherapy: Some older research suggests a link between phototherapy, which is a common treatment for psoriasis, and an increased likelihood of asthma.

Research strongly suggests a bidirectional relationship between psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis and asthma. This means that having one condition may increase your chance of developing the other, especially later in life.

Treating underlying inflammation with biologics or corticosteroids can benefit both conditions.

If you have asthma, psoriasis, or both, it’s a good idea to contact a general practitioner. They can then connect you with a dermatologist as well as an allergist or immunologist, who can help you treat both psoriasis and arthritis.