Four and a half years ago, Nancy Van Wickle discovered painful red spots had appeared on her arms, back and legs.
It was psoriasis, a condition that affects an estimated 7.5 million Americans.
"I actually had people stop and ask me, if I wore shorts, 'Have you been burned?'" she said. "It's that severe looking."
Now there's new research bringing hope to patients such as Van Wickle. Her doctors suggested a TNF inhibitor drug that cleared up her skin almost immediately.
"For my line of work, I needed to dress professionally," Van Wickle said. "You can do that with pants, but it sure extended the wardrobe."
New research from Kaiser Permanente Los Angels Medical Center shows this same treatment has another benefit.
"Patients who were given a TNF inhibitor are almost 50 percent less likely to have a heart attack compared to patients who receive other medications," said Dr. Jay Wu of Kaiser Permanente.
People with psoriasis are at higher risk for cardiovascular diseases because the condition causes inflammation in the body.
"This inflammation brings out diabetes, high blood pressure, and ultimately a heart attack," Wu said.
The treatment attacks the inflammation and lowers the risk.
It's an easy treatment that takes Van Wickle less than a minute – once every two weeks. It also helped her become less self-conscious about her psoriasis, especially when she worked.
"To be able to have something simple as a skirt and sweater, you just feel more professional," she said. "It was a definite plus."
Van Wickle said she's glad that the drug that makes her skin look better may have another life-saving benefit.
Kaiser Permanente funded the study and has approved the next phase to study the effects that a TNF inhibitor has on stroke.