Inflammation in atherosclerosis and psoriasis: common pathogenic mechanisms and the potential for an integrated treatment approach


  • Conflicts of interest
    The author has declared no conflict of interest.

Friedhelm Späh.
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Inflammation plays a key role in the pathogenesis of a number of chronic inflammatory systemic diseases (CISDs), including psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus and Crohn’s disease, and also in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis. CISDs and cardiovascular diseases, such as atherosclerosis, share common pathogenic features, and cardiovascular disease is an important cause of morbidity and mortality in patients with CISDs. Activated inflammatory cells and pro-inflammatory cytokines contribute to the development of psoriatic lesions and play an important role in the breakdown of atherosclerotic plaques. Psoriasis and atherosclerosis also have similar histological characteristics involving T cells, macrophages and monocytes. In particular, the extravasation of T cells through the epithelium is characteristic of both psoriatic and atherosclerotic plaques. Cardiovascular disease is an important cause of morbidity and mortality in patients with psoriasis, which is associated with an increased cardiovascular risk profile compared with the general population. Patients with psoriasis are at increased risk of arterial hypertension, coronary heart disease, hyperlipidaemia, obesity and type II diabetes, which are more prevalent than in control patients. This increased risk could be due to the effects of chronic inflammatory changes, particularly the infiltration of T cells and subsequent secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Some drugs used in the treatment of cardiovascular disease, such as 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase inhibitors (statins) and angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors have anti-inflammatory activity. In addition, systemic treatments for psoriasis may, by decreasing inflammation, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. It is suggested, therefore, that an integrated approach to the treatment of the inflammatory processes underlying both psoriasis and atherosclerosis may be beneficial in reducing cardiovascular risk in patients with psoriasis. The newer targeted biological therapies, such as efalizumab and infliximab, which offer the potential for long-term disease control in psoriasis, may be of particular use in this setting.