Chronic Inflammation Hit List

Chronic Inflammation Hit List

Our immune system uses inflammation as a form of defense, used to remove harmful substances like damaged cells or bacteria and begin the healing process. There are two categories of inflammation: acute and chronic. When your body experiences acute inflammation, the body responds rapidly and the inflammation lasts for a few days to a couple weeks.  This is the type of inflammatory response you are used to seeing when you have a cold, flu, or muscle strain due to injury. With chronic inflammation, the normal regulatory function of your immune system does not shut off correctly and the inflammatory response can last for several months or years.

Inflammation overload

Chronic inflammation may occur due to the body’s failure to eliminate the source of acute inflammation, a chronic irritant that persists, or an autoimmune disease. Research has demonstrated that psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system is triggered, begins a cascade of inflammatory responses, and attacks healthy tissues in the joints.1

While the primary symptoms of psoriatic arthritis are characterized as joint issues, the inflammation that creates the swelling, pain, and redness of the joints can also affect other areas of the body. Chronic inflammation of PsA can affect the heart, eyes, ears, kidneys, and liver. In addition, chronic inflammation in the body is linked to depression, fatigue, diabetes, and inflammatory bowel disease. Each of these conditions has complex causes and mechanisms of action. Yet, some of the same inflammatory pathways are involved in each of these conditions, leading researchers to believe inflammation may be a common causal element.

Fatigue

Although the exact cause of fatigue experienced by people with PsA is largely unknown, researchers believe that it is in part due to the inflammatory process. The chemical messengers known as cytokines that cause inflammation also cause fatigue. The incidence of fatigue is also more common among people with more severe disease, including people with many joints affected by PsA, those who experience the sausage-like swelling of the fingers and toes called dactylitis, and those who experience inflammation at the points where ligaments and tendons attach, called enthesitis.2

Depression

Living with a painful, chronic condition like psoriatic arthritis can take a toll on a person’s emotional health, and people with PsA are twice as likely to be depressed as those with the skin condition psoriasis, and they are also more likely to have clinical depression and anxiety. In addition to the emotional toll, some research suggests depression may also be linked to the same inflammatory processes that cause psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. Data suggests that while chronic inflammation can cause depression, depression may also make inflammation worse, creating a terrible cycle. The inflammatory cytokines are thought to act on the brain in a negative way just as they cause the destructive chronic inflammation to joint tissue.3,4

Diabetes

People with psoriatic arthritis are at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and diabetes has been observed in up to 18% of people with PsA. Diabetes can cause serious problems, including damaging eyes, kidneys and nerves and increasing the risk of heart disease. Some of the same inflammatory processes that are involved in psoriasis and PsA are also seen in diabetes, leading researchers to believe that chronic inflammation is one thing linking these diseases. Other similarities are seen in shared genetic risk factors and common environmental factors.5,6

Vascular inflammation

Research has shown that people with psoriatic arthritis have heightened levels of vascular inflammation or the inflammation in the blood vessels. This type of inflammation is a hidden, but potentially deadly.  Vascular inflammation can significantly increase the risk of heart disease. A marker of inflammation throughout the body is C-reactive protein (CRP). CRP has been documented by researchers as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and CRP and other inflammation markers are higher in patients with PsA than in healthy subjects or patients with only psoriasis.7

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