Do Men Have a Higher Risk of Developing Severe Psoriasis?

Maybe you have psoriasis. Maybe a friend or family member has it. Maybe you’ve seen commercials for it. Or maybe you’ve never heard about it before. No matter what group you fall in, the National Psoriasis Foundation aims to bring greater awareness to the public in August, for Psoriasis Awareness Month.

Psoriasis is an immune-mediated disease that causes raised, red, scaly patches to appear on the skin. It typically affects the outside of the elbows, knees or scalp, though it can appear anywhere on the body, and can feel itchy or sting.

Scientists do not know what causes psoriasis, but they do know that the immune system and genetics can help play a major role in its development, as well as internal or external triggers. Psoriasis usually develops between the ages of 15 and 35, but can develop at any age.

Although the National Psoriasis Foundation reports that men and women develop psoriasis at equal rates, a new study published by Umeå University in Sweden suggests that men are more likely to develop severe cases of the disease.     

There are five types of psoriasis: plaque, guttate, inverse, pustular, and erythrodermic. This study analyzed the severity of plaque psoriasis, since it is the most common form of the disease.

Credit: National Psoriasis Foundation

Plaque psoriasis appears as raised, red patches covered with a silvery-white buildup of dead skin cells. These patches most often show up on the scalp, knees, elbows and lower back, and are often itchy and painful.

The study observed four areas of the body—head, arms, trunk and legs—then analyzed three characteristics of the plaques that were found in those areas for the degree of redness, thickness and scaling. Using those metrics, researchers found that women had less severe psoriasis in all areas of the body except for the head, in which the results were almost identical. After adjusting for age, body mass index, disease duration, ongoing psoriatic arthritis, smoking status and season, sex was the only significant explanatory variable.

As for why women outrank the men in severity of psoriasis on the head, researchers believe the differences in hair growth, care and styling between both men and women could be to blame.

Even though this study is the first of its kind, researchers hope the findings will motivate a gender perspective in the management of severe psoriasis and its comorbidities, such as cardiovascular and metabolic disease.

“For over 70 years, psoriasis researchers have speculated that women have less severe psoriasis compared to men,” says Marcus Schmitt-Egenolf, researcher at the Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine at Umeå University and senior author of the study. “Our study is the first to investigate sex differences in psoriasis severity, and the results allow us to verify this thesis in a nationwide population. However, further research is needed to substantiate our findings in different populations.”

Remember, psoriasis is not contagious and is not something that you can “catch” like a cold or the flu, so it is OK to have contact with someone who has psoriasis.

Since no one treatment is effective for everyone, finding a dermatologist that will work to find the best solution to your psoriasis symptoms and severity is important. Use our “Find a Physician” tool to find the dermatologist closest to you or your office.

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