Chronic Inflammation Hit List.

The Link Between Chronic Inflammation and Psoriatic Arthritis

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: August 2022

The immune system uses inflammation as a form of defense. Inflammation helps the body remove harmful substances like damaged cells or bacteria. It also helps the healing process begin.1

There are two categories of inflammation: acute and chronic. With acute inflammation, the body responds fast. This inflammation lasts between a few days and a couple of weeks. It is triggered by an immune response to something like a cold, the flu, or an injury.1,2

With chronic inflammation, your immune system does not shut off after an acute event has passed. This long-term inflammatory response can last several months or even years.1,2

Why does chronic inflammation occur?

Chronic inflammation may occur due to:1,2

  • The body’s failure to get rid of the source of acute inflammation
  • A substance that triggers an inflammatory response over and over again
  • An autoimmune disease like psoriatic arthritis (PsA)

In PsA, the body’s immune system is triggered. A cascade of inflammatory responses then occurs, and the body begins to damage healthy tissues in the joints.2

Can it spread to other areas of the body?

The primary symptoms of PsA are joint issues. But the inflammation that creates swelling and pain in the joints can also affect other areas of the body.2

Signs of chronic inflammation throughout the body can include:1,2

In addition, chronic inflammation in the body is linked to other health conditions including:1,2

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Anxiety and depression

The link between inflammation and fatigue

The exact cause of fatigue in people with PsA is largely unknown. But researchers believe that inflammation is to blame. The chemical messengers that cause inflammation (known as cytokines) are also believed to cause fatigue.3

The link between inflammation, PsA, and diabetes

According to a 2018 study, people with PsA are at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those with just psoriasis or those without either disease. Some of the same inflammatory processes involved in psoriasis and PsA are also seen in diabetes.4

Diabetes can cause serious problems, including increasing the risk of:4

  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Kidney disease
  • Eye disease
  • Other health conditions

The link between inflammation, PsA, and heart disease

Inflammation can also occur in the blood vessels (vascular inflammation). This inflammation increases the risk of too many fatty masses forming in the arteries. When this buildup happens, it is called atherosclerosis.5

This process can lead to heart disease. For people with PsA, the risk of heart disease is about twice as high as it is for a person who does not have PsA.5

The impact of inflammation on mental health

Living with a painful, chronic condition like PsA can take a toll on your emotional well-being. PsA’s painful symptoms often lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, and social isolation. A 2020 study shows that about 20 percent of people with PsA live with depression.6

But research shows that it is not just the emotional toll of symptoms that leads to depression. Some research suggests the same inflammatory processes that occur in people with psoriasis and PsA may also occur in people with depression. The cytokines that cause inflammation are thought to act on the brain just as they act on joint tissue.6

So, while having chronic inflammation can cause depression, having depression may also make inflammation worse. It is a terrible cycle.6

Ways to reduce inflammation

Several drugs and treatments help reduce acute and chronic inflammation. For people with mild PsA, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) help reduce pain and swelling. For more severe cases, steroid injections or systemic drugs may be helpful. Talk to your doctor about which treatment options are right for you.1

Certain healthy lifestyle habits also can help reduce inflammation. In fact, they can reduce the negative effects of many health issues. These lifestyle habits include:1

  • Eating an anti-inflammatory, balanced diet
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Exercising regularly
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Managing anxiety and stress
  • Limiting alcohol
  • Not smoking

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