Psoriasis is a common skin condition. It can cause scaly patches of skin, often on the elbows, knees, arms, and legs.

It can also cause scaly patches of skin in other body regions. These patches often appear red and inflamed. They may be covered in silvery-white scales.

Although psoriasis isn’t fatal, it may be connected to several lung illnesses that are fatal. Researchers are still investigating these possible connections. It’s important to know the possible risks so that you and your doctor can identify any problems as soon as possible.

Additional research is needed, but some studies have shown a possible correlation between psoriasis and these pulmonary conditions:

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

It’s possible that the inflammation caused by psoriasis is more than skin deep.

A 2015 review of studies found that psoriasis patients had a higher risk for developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) than the general population.

In a 2012 study conducted in Taiwan, the risk for COPD was found to be even higher in men and in people with psoriasis who are over age 50 years.

Interstitial pneumonia

Interstitial pneumonia is rare, but it may be a concern for people with psoriasis. This may be due to the use of tumor necrosis factor (TNF) alpha-blockers, which are a type of treatment used for psoriasis.

TNF blockers target the chemical “TNF alpha,” which is a chemical that’s released during the inflammatory process. Interstitial pneumonia is a rare but frequently fatal side effect of treatment with TNF blockers. While you’re taking these biologic medications, your doctor should regularly monitor you for signs and symptoms of pneumonia.

Pulmonary sarcoidosis

Sarcoidosis is another inflammatory disease. It’s caused by the growth of inflammatory cells or lumps in your lungs and air pathways.

Researchers are still investigating the possible connection, but they believe that psoriasis and pulmonary sarcoidosis may frequently coexist in the same individuals. This may be because the conditions share common disease pathways.

Asthma

A 2015 cohort study suggested that previous research linking psoriasis to increased likelihood of developing asthma was likely correct. The risk increased in those over 50 years old.

Lung cancer

One large study from 2017 suggested a minor association of psoriasis with certain types of cancers, with lung cancer being included.

A 2020 review of studies suggested links between psoriasis and a number of cancer types, including lung cancer. The review of research indicated that those with psoriasis appeared to have a slightly increased risk for keratinocyte cancer, lymphomas, lung cancer, and bladder cancer.

More research needs to be done to determine the connection between psoriasis and cancer.

Several other factors may increase your risk for pulmonary illnesses. Knowing what these are and accounting for the health risks they bring may help you make changes that could ultimately help you live longer. These risk factors include:

Smoking

People who smoke and develop psoriasis are more likely to develop more severe forms of the condition. The more a person smokes, the more severe their condition is likely to be.

Smoking also increases the risk of several pulmonary illnesses. These illnesses can include COPD, pneumonia, sarcoidosis, and lung cancer.

If you currently smoke, quitting can reduce your risk for psoriasis and psoriasis-related lung conditions.

Exposure to irritants

If your job or hobbies frequently require that you be around dust, chemicals, or other possible lung irritants, consider using a filtrating mask. Long-term exposure to these irritants can increase your risk for a pulmonary illness.

Age

This is one factor you can’t control. It’s important to know that COPD and other pulmonary illnesses become more common as you age. Most people experience their first COPD symptoms after age 30 years.

Genetics

Certain genes may also increase your risk for COPD. If a family member has this pulmonary illness, make sure your doctor knows. While the genetic connection doesn’t mean you’ll develop COPD, it does increase the odds.

Each condition is different, which means each set of warning signs and symptoms is unique.

A few conditions do share several of the same warning signs. Knowing the symptoms may help you and your doctor detect a problem before it begins dramatically affecting your health and lifestyle.

Symptoms include the following:

  • Difficulty breathing is often overlooked or excused as a natural part of aging, but it may be one of the first signs of a pulmonary illness.
  • Coughing is another symptom. If it’s not cold and flu season and you’re still coughing around the clock, that might be a sign your respiratory system has a problem.
  • Wheezing is often a sign that your respiratory system has a blockage that is making your airways too narrow.
  • Mucus is your body’s natural defense against infections and irritants. If your body makes excess mucus for more than a month, that could be a sign of a pulmonary issue.
  • Chest pain that gets worse when you breathe or cough could be a warning sign of a lung issue.

Speak with your doctor regularly for psoriasis care and to maintain treatments for your psoriasis. You should also talk with your doctor about your risks for lung conditions and other complications related to psoriasis.

You may be able to take steps to help reduce your overall risk and help you stay healthier longer. These can include:

  • quitting smoking, if you currently smoke
  • maintaining a moderate weight
  • managing your asthma safely and effectively

While it’s true that certain pulmonary conditions may be more common in people who have psoriasis, that doesn’t mean it’s a certainty that you will develop one of them. Making strides toward a healthier life can help you feel better, improve your quality of life, and ward off possible complications.