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Psoriatic Arthritis: The Basics

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Who is at risk for psoriatic arthritis?

Affecting men and women equally, about 10% to 30% of people with psoriasis develop psoriatic arthritis. Psoriatic arthritis may develop at any age, but usually affects people between the ages of 30 and 50. While the cause is not known, genetic factors, along with the immune system, likely play a role in determining who will develop the disorder.

As many as 40% of people with psoriatic arthritis have a family history of skin or joint disease. Having a parent with psoriasis triples the chance of getting psoriasis yourself and thus increases the chance of developing psoriatic arthritis.

 

What triggers psoriatic arthritis?

Certain factors may trigger psoriasis, including the following:

  • Injury to the skin: Injury to the skin has been associated with plaque psoriasis. For example, a skin infection, skin inflammation, or even excessive scratching can trigger psoriasis.
  • Sunlight: Most people generally consider sunlight to be beneficial for their psoriasis. However, a small minority find that strong sunlight aggravates their symptoms. A bad sunburn may worsen psoriasis.
  • Streptococcal infections: Some evidence suggests that streptococcal infections may cause a type of plaque psoriasis. These bacterial infections have been shown to cause guttate psoriasis, a type of psoriasis that looks like small red drops on the skin.
  • HIV : Psoriasis typically worsens after an individual has been infected with HIV. However, psoriasis often becomes less active in advanced HIV infection.
  • Drugs : A number of medications may aggravate psoriasis. Some examples are as follows:
    • Lithium: Drug used to treat bipolar disorder
    • Beta-blockers: Drugs used to treat high blood pressure
    • Antimalarials: Drugs used to treat malaria
  • Emotional stress: Many people see an increase in their psoriasis when emotional stress is increased.
  • Smoking : Cigarette smokers have an increased risk of chronic plaque psoriasis.
  • Alcohol: Alcohol is considered a risk factor for psoriasis, particularly in young to middle-aged men.
  • Hormone changes: The severity of psoriasis may fluctuate with hormonal changes. The disease frequency peaks during puberty and menopause. A pregnant woman's symptoms are more likely to improve than worsen during pregnancy, if any changes occur at all. In contrast, symptoms are more likely to flare in the period after childbirth, if any changes occur at all.

 

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