14 June 2022

MS linked to psoriasis risk in family

Clinical Dermatology

Patients should be screened for the skin condition, especially if there’s a family history.


People with multiple sclerosis are significantly more likely to have a family history of psoriasis, according to new Australian research that suggests patients with MS should be screened for the skin condition. 

The survey of 152 adults with MS who attended the MS clinic at Sydney’s Royal North Shore Hospital found that a significant number had signs of psoriasis.  

One in 10 patients had been diagnosed with psoriasis, but many more had symptoms and were undiagnosed, Dr Varitsara Mangkorntongsakul told the audience at the Australasian College of Dermatologists Annual Scientific Meeting.

The signs and symptoms of psoriasis and eczema included the presence of intermittent red rash or pruritus, seasonal skin changes, thickened scaly skin of extensors, behind ears or scalp and nail changes. 

“A number of MS patients reported new skin manifestations since a diagnosis of MS,” said Dr Mangkorntongsakul, a neurology research fellow at Royal North Shore Hospital.

“However, these signs and symptoms were based on patients’ self-reports and not an assessment done by a dermatologist.” 

The survey, which has yet to be published, also found an increased rate of psoriasis among family members of MS patients. 

“We found that up to 18% of multiple sclerosis patients in our Australian cohort have a family history of psoriasis and 9% reported a history of psoriasis themselves,” Dr Mangkorntongsakul said.  

“As such, the prevalence of familial psoriasis in this cohort is likely to be underestimated,” she added.

While men and women were equally likely to have both MS and psoriasis in this study, 40% of the women with MS had a family history of the skin condition and only 12.5% of men did.

Dr Mangkorntongsakul and colleagues said the significantly increased risk of psoriasis among family members of MS patients suggested genetic correlations between the two immune-mediated diseases.

Although they noted that environmental triggers also played a role in the association.

The study adds to a growing body of research linking the two conditions, although the exact mechanism behind this is unknown, as is the prevalence of the overlap. 

“We believe that there are shared susceptible genes and pathomechanisms between psoriasis and certain types of MS,” Dr Mangkorntongsakul said. 

“According to the outcome of this study, it would be reasonable to consider screening for psoriasis in MS individuals, especially in patients with a family history of psoriasis.” 

Dr Mangkorntongsakul paid tribute to her research supervisors, Associate Professor Saxon Smith, Associate Professor Geoffrey Herkes, Dr John Parratt and Dr Ariadna Fontes Villalba, who provided guidance and support for the project.