It’s not unusual for a disease like psoriatic arthritis to come with the risk of having other conditions, or a comorbidity.
More than you might think, people with psoriatic arthritis also have psoriasis. Psoriasis is a skin disease that causes itchy or sore patches of thick, red skin topped with silvery scales. Psoriatic arthritis patients have this skin disease plus chronic inflammation and pain in the joints similar to rheumatoid arthritis.
Over the years, researchers and doctors have been trying to figure out why certain people with psoriasis go on to develop psoriatic arthritis. If they can isolate certain risk factors, then maybe people could get on treatment earlier.
That’s why this new research is especially exciting.
Only about 8.5% of people with psoriasis develop psoriatic arthritis. However, if a person with psoriasis develops depression, their risk of getting psoriatic arthritis jumps by 37%.
While this is good information on its own, it begs the question: Why?
There are a couple of theories:
- Depression has been associated with inflammation within the body. In fact, people with depression have shown higher immune and inflammatory markers than the average healthy person, which might encourage the body’s inflammatory response that occurs in psoriatic arthritis.
- Depression causes changes in lifestyle behaviors, like poor nutrition habits or less physical activity. These are factors that contribute to decreased overall health and could leave the body open to attack.
While researchers are trying to determine the why, it doesn’t change the facts. Having a condition that affects the body’s inflammatory system can lead to the development of other chronic inflammatory conditions.
So, the better question now is: What are doctors going to do with this knowledge?
One would hope that they will continue to monitor their psoriasis patients for signs of depression and other conditions that point to chronic inflammation. If dermatologists and rheumatologists are diligent, maybe we’ll start seeing more people getting diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis sooner.