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Psoriatic Arthritis and Other Health Problems

By Bethany Afshar
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by David Zelman, MD

Psoriatic arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes pain and swelling in your joints. It sometimes comes along with psoriasis, a disease that affects the skin. It can also be linked with other serious conditions like obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.

Although there’s no sure reason why these conditions go hand-in-hand, researchers are looking for the links that bind them. The connection may be inflammation, says Eric Matteson, MD. He's the rheumatology chair at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.

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Other Diseases That Can Come With Psoriatic Arthritis

High blood pressure (hypertention) happens when the force of blood against artery walls is too strong. It can lead to heart disease. More than 37% of people with psoriatic arthritis have high BP.

Obesity, defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher, is widespread in people with psoriatic arthritis.

“Some treatments used to treat psoriatic arthritis, such as corticosteroids, potentially lead to weight gain as well as heart disease risk,” says Jasvinder Singh, MD. He's a rheumatologist and associate professor of medicine at the University of Alabama in Birmingham.

Severe pain and limited movements can also lead to a higher risk of obesity.

Diabetes, a long-term disease marked by high blood sugar, happens in nearly 20% of people with psoriatic arthritis. The two share obesity as a risk factor. On top of that, says Matteson, the drugs used to treat psoriatic arthritis make you more likely to get diabetes.

Cardiovascular disease and heart attacks are linked to the inflammation that goes with psoriatic arthritis, says Singh.

Gout is five times more likely in someone with psoriatic arthritis.

What Can You and Your Doctor Do About It?

Together you can build a treatment plan to limit your chances of getting these conditions. In the short term, Matteson suggests taking these steps:

  • Keep your arthritis under control.
  • Get screened for diabetes, high cholesterol, and heart disease.
  • Ask your doctor how you can get more exercise.
  • Don't smoke.

Researchers are working on ways to control psoriatic arthritis The long-term goal is to tailor treatments to people based on their risk factors.

For example, “someone with heart disease risk may be better suited for a specific type of treatment,” Singh says.

Reviewed on June 26, 2014

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