An unexpected relationship

By | Science & Technology
Eye examination.Credit@wikipediapFranko2

New evidence suggests that the psoriasis skin condition may be associated with the eye condition retinal vein occlusion (RVO). The complexity of both conditions means this is welcome news as it may provide new ideas into the treatment of both. This new evidence may provide suggestions for preventative action to the development of RVO.

Psoriasis is a long term auto immune condition identified by patches of abnormal skin. An immune response may involve inflammation in reaction to an individuals own skin cells. It is believed there may be a genetic component to psoriasis and it may be activated by environmental factors. A factor that may be involved is Sunlight as symptoms appear during winter and also phototherapy and topical agents using vitamin D ameliorate the condition. Factors that may activate the condition are viruses, mental health, climate and changes in the seasons. Drugs such as alcohol and nicotine, as well as medications may induce psoriasis although the positive news is most of these factors are able at least to an extent be averted.

Retinal vein occlusion (RVO) is a condition of the eye seemingly unrelated to psoriasis that occurs when the flow of blood is impeded, which may lead to blood and protein break out from the vein into the retina. Depending on the nature of the blockage, the result may vary. Glaucoma may result due to pressure in the optic nerve and its degeneration. Ischemia, swelling and also genetic mutations may have affects on the health of the eye, an occlusion is a usual effect of these symptoms. The prospect these conditions may be averted by an increasing understanding of psoriasis is however possible and is interesting scientists presently.

Anatomy of the eye.Credit@wikipediaBruceBlaus

A new study by Yen and colleagues published in the journal retina, looked into whether a link was evident between psoriasis and RVO. This was undertaken on the basis that past research may have linked psoriasis to other sensory conditions and observations by ophthalmologists and dermatologists have previously suggested that the two conditions were somehow linked. To prove a link, the researchers studied 30,198 with psoriasis and 30,198 without psoriasis symptoms on the Taiwan national health insurance research database between 2001 and 2006. The results indicated that an RVO was 1.46 times more likely in the psoriasis group than in the without group. Age factors also interacted and were more notable in individuals over 65 years of age who had psoriasis. These individuals had a 1.97 times higher chance of a RVO than the without group 65 years or over group. A subgroup who experienced concurrent hypertension had an even higher likelihood of developing RVO at 2.07 times compared to those in the without group. The results showed that psoriasis and RVO were significantly associated, specifically that psoriasis led to a higher chance of developing RVO.

The authors believe the underlying cause of both conditions may be multifactorial, both conditions may be the result of lifestyle factors and mutagens (a physical or chemical agent that increases mutations) that may exacerbate or accelerate the likelihood of developing either condition. Both physical health and levels of sun exposure have both been linked to the development of psoriasis and to the development of cardiovascular conditions (13). The enthusiasm by scientists however is these conditions may be largely averted by individuals being more in control of their health and making adjustments to protect it.

The valuable insight the study presents is that ameliorating the symptoms of psoriasis may also prevent the development of RVO especially when an individual is over 65 years old. The prospect of a future answer to the question of what causes both conditions may be available in the near future with a clearer understanding of both conditions.

What new links may ophthalmologists and dermatologists discover next?

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