Psoriasis causes patches of itchy, scaly skin, but it’s more than a skin condition — it’s an immune-mediated disease. If left untreated, psoriasis may worsen, contributing to other health challenges.

Psoriasis is a chronic immune-mediated disease that features patches of raised, scaly, and itchy skin. While its underlying causes aren’t totally understood, psoriasis occurs when your immune system induces a state of inflammation and cues skin cells to multiply too quickly.

Unable to shed fast enough, the rapidly multiplying cells accumulate into psoriasis plaques, pustules, or discolored spots on the skin.

It can be tempting to ignore mild psoriasis, especially if it’s easily concealed. The underlying inflammation from psoriasis can affect other organs in your body, however, and without treatment, it may increase your chances of developing serious health complications.

Treating psoriasis can be an effective way of reducing your risk for comorbid conditions.

Approximately 30% of people living with psoriasis also experience psoriatic arthritis (PsA), joint pain and inflammation caused by underlying immune-mediated processes in the body.

PsA can affect anyone, but the majority of people who develop this condition already live with psoriasis, and PsA is the most common comorbid condition in psoriasis.

A 2021 review showed that psoriasis is associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease.

Systemic and cutaneous (skin-based) inflammation from this condition may compromise the integrity of your blood vessels, leading to the process of atherosclerosis, or plaque buildup, within the arteries.

The impact of inflammation on your circulatory system can also increase the risk for other cardiovascular disease complications and risks, such as:

  • stroke
  • heart attack
  • high blood pressure
  • abnormal cholesterol levels

The link between psoriasis and cancer isn’t well-understood, but experts believe that the inflammatory processes in psoriasis can encourage the abnormal growth of cells leading to cancer.

In a 2019 review of studies, psoriasis was linked to an increased risk for developing certain site-specific cancers, as well as elevated cancer mortality rate for those living with severe psoriasis.

Psoriasis can affect how your body reacts to insulin, contributing to insulin resistance and raising your risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

While this is one of the most recognized links between psoriasis and diabetes, research suggests that the conditions may share multiple underlying mechanisms related to genetics, impaired glucose homeostasis, and inflammation, in addition to insulin resistance.

Review data indicates people living with psoriasis are 1.5 times more likely to experience symptoms of depression and anxiety, and have higher incidences of schizophrenia and suicidal ideation compared to the general population.

While it’s true that psoriasis can negatively impact your mental health due to stigma and self-consciousness, the relationship appears to be deeper.

A 2016 systematic review suggests that psoriasis can be a psychosocial condition, meaning its symptom severity can be affected by the inflammatory response caused by psychological stress.

In other words, psoriasis may worsen certain mental health symptoms and certain mental health conditions may worsen psoriasis.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a term used to describe two conditions of chronic gastrointestinal (GI) inflammation:

  • ulcerative colitis
  • Crohn’s disease

Crohn’s disease, in particular, has a higher rate of occurrence among people living with psoriasis.

Research suggests that this is likely due to similar underlying genetic factors. Also, autoimmune inflammatory processes can negatively affect the GI microbiome and epithelial cells lining your intestinal barrier.

Psoriasis can increase your chances of developing chronic kidney disease and end-stage renal disease.

Research shows that the more severe your psoriasis, the higher your chances of experiencing these conditions. Psoriasis can extend beyond skin inflammation. It’s associated with immune-inflammatory cells that circulate systemically, causing inflammatory effects on many different organs.

The kidneys and renal system are no exception. Psoriasis may encourage renal inflammation leading to tissue damage.

Metabolic syndrome (MetS) refers to a group of co-occurring conditions that increase the risk for stroke, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.

These conditions include:

  • high blood pressure
  • elevated blood sugar
  • excess body fat
  • abnormal cholesterol levels
  • nonalcoholic fatty liver disease

Research from 2018 suggests that as many as 50% of people living with psoriasis also live with metabolic syndrome, and the more severe your symptoms of psoriasis are, the higher your chances of experiencing MetS.

Like many other comorbid psoriasis conditions, the link to metabolic syndrome is likely caused by an increase in pro-inflammatory cytokines, which are cellular messengers that trigger inflammatory responses in the body.

Psoriasis creates a state of chronic inflammation associated with cytokines known to induce insulin resistance and cause weight gain.

A 2021 review showed that psoriasis can also contribute to other factors that promote obesity, such as social isolation, poor eating habits, inactivity, alcohol consumption, and depression.

Chronic inflammation can have serious health impacts on your eyes.

Research shows the cells of the eyes and skin are very similar, and inflammation from psoriasis can cause eye conditions such as:

  • keratoconjunctivitis sicca
  • blepharitis
  • conjunctivitis
  • uveitis

Psoriasis may also cause eyelid lesions and may even result in blindness if left untreated.

When your body is in a state of chronic inflammation from psoriasis, your nervous system can be negatively affected.

Research suggests that living with psoriasis can increase your chances of developing neurological conditions like Parkinson’s disease or dementia. Persistent inflammation can cause damage to the nervous system.

Psoriasis may appear as a skin condition, but it’s an immune-mediated disease that can cause a body-wide state of inflammation.

Over time, the chronic inflammation of untreated psoriasis can cause damage to everything from blood vessels, nerves, and organs — to digestive function and vision.

Severe psoriasis symptoms are often linked to a higher risk of comorbid conditions. Treating psoriasis can help reduce your risk for serious complications.