Psoriasis has been linked to several other health conditions, such as heart disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and psoriatic arthritis. There is also growing evidence that psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis can increase your risk for osteopenia and osteoporosis.
What is osteoporosis?
Osteopenia and osteoporosis are bone diseases that are characterized by low bone mass, deterioration of bone tissue, and bone fragility; they can lead to fractures, especially in the hips, spine, and wrist. Osteopenia, sometimes considered a precursor to osteoporosis, refers to a decrease in bone mineral density, but is not as severe as osteoporosis. More than 53 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with osteoporosis or have low bone mass, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
While both men and women can develop osteoporosis, it is more common in women, especially in those who have gone through menopause. It is sometimes called the “silent disease” because there are no symptoms of until you fracture a bone after a fall, bump, or strain, according to the NIH.
The link to psoriasis
In a study published in June 2017, researchers looked at data from emergency room visits between 2006 and 2012 from the National Emergency Department Sample. In all, records of more than 198 million people were analyzed. This included 183,725 patients with psoriasis and 28,765 patients with psoriatic arthritis.
The scientists found an increased prevalence of osteopenia and osteoporosis when each year was looked at separately as well as overall. Ankylosing spondylitis (AS), a bone disease that can cause vertebrae to fuse together, was also found to have a higher prevalence rate in those with psoriasis. Osteopenia and osteoporosis were found to be more common in women with psoriasis, while AS was found to be more common in men with psoriasis.
Prior studies on the possible link between psoriasis and osteoporosis have been mixed, according to the authors of the study. They indicate that, while some studies have shown an association, others have not found any association between psoriasis and bone mineral density.
The authors point out that the link makes sense because psoriasis patients have risk factors for osteoporosis, including low vitamin D levels, chronic inflammation, high rates of cigarette smoking, and systemic corticosteroid use.
What you can do
There are a number of risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing osteoporosis that you can’t change. These include your gender (more women develop osteoporosis), your age (bones thin as you age), your body size (smaller women are more at risk), your ethnicity (Caucasian and Asian women are more at risk), and your family history.
But there are steps you can take to lower other risk factors:
- Eat a healthy diet that is rich in calcium and vitamin D
- Don’t smoke and if you do, quit
- Don’t drink, or drink moderately
Talk to your doctor if you are on medications that can contribute to bone loss, including glucocorticoids, some anti-seizure medications, some antacids, and some cancer treatments. If you are currently taking medications that can contribute to bone loss, discuss what steps you can take to help prevent problems in the future.
In addition, having bone density tests on a regular basis will help monitor the health of your bones. When and if problems are seen, you can work with your doctor to determine the best course of treatment.
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Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.