People with psoriasis may be at greater risk for developing a liver condition called nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), according to the results of a study published last year in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.
NAFLD refers to the accumulation of fat in the liver in people who do not drink a lot of alcohol, and, according to the American Liver Foundation, can ultimately lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer and liver failure.
Researchers evaluated the prevalence of NAFLD in people with psoriasis using the Rotterdam Study, a Dutch patient database created in 1990 that includes people ages 55 and older. NAFLD, the researchers report, typically affects older adults.
To compare rates of NAFLD in people with psoriasis to those without, researchers included 2,292 patients in their study, with an average age of 76. Of this group, 118 had psoriasis. Both the psoriasis group and the control group included more women than men, accounting for 62.4 percent of psoriasis patients and 58.4 percent of controls.
Study results indicated that NAFLD was more prevalent among people with psoriasis. Almost half (46.2 percent) of people with psoriasis also had NAFLD, compared to only a third of the controls.
Although NAFLD often has no symptoms, warning signs can include yellowing of the skin and eyes, swelling in the legs and abdomen, mental confusion and nausea, according to the American Liver Foundation.
As the researchers note, previous studies had already identified an association between NAFLD and psoriasis. However, they explain, because NAFLD can be caused by other comorbidities for psoriasis, such as metabolic syndrome, it was unclear whether psoriasis itself was a risk factor for NAFLD.
Even when accounting for these other risk factors, the researchers found that people with psoriasis were still approximately 70 percent more likely to have NAFLD.
The researchers recommend that doctors keep this increased risk for liver disease in mind when prescribing medications to treat psoriasis, such as methotrexate, that could affect the liver.