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YOUR HEALTH: Psoriasis and your mouth

Researchers say diet and oral hygiene may impact people affected by psoriasis

It's a problem that's more than skin-deep.

About seven and a half million Americans have psoriasis and about 40% of those patients also have joint inflammation that produces painful arthritis symptoms. 

Now, new research suggests one surprising potential cause for the condition and some preventive measures patients can take. 

Douglas Levin struggled with psoriatic arthritis before he adopted a healthier lifestyle to help counter the inflammation caused by his disease.

"Anytime you can control it by moderating your intake of food or other things you're that much better off."

Researchers know that a problem with the immune system can trigger psoriasis. 

Now, Ohio State medical dermatologist Benjamin Kaffenberger is studying a potential link between poor oral health, bacterial infections in the mouth, and psoriasis.

"When your body is attempting to fight this bacteria, probably it develops a little bit of a cross-reaction with the skin at the same time," he explained.

Researchers surveyed 100 patients with psoriasis, and 165 without psoriasis about their lifestyle and diet. 

The results showed that poor dental and oral health, especially gum pain was associated with psoriasis.

"Unfortunately, a lot of patients don't have good access to dental care, or maybe just are too busy at a certain time frame," said Dr. Kaffenberger.

"So, they may not be getting that message when they have this disease in the first place."

Patients who had higher fruit consumption reported less significant psoriasis. 

Ohio State University researchers said that indicates fresh foods may be a protective factor. 

The study also reinforced earlier studies that found family history of psoriasis, smoking and obesity could be predictors of the condition.

For Levin, lifestyle changes means psoriasis no longer controls his life.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.