Other Health Conditions Linked to Psoriatic Arthritis

Chronic conditions and autoimmune diseases often collect - meaning if you are diagnosed with one, it is not uncommon to contract or develop another. It all comes back to the status of your health, overall body, and lifestyle. These linked conditions are called comorbidities and are important to know when living with a condition like psoriatic arthritis.

The inflammation connection

Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is an inflammatory joint condition that can lead to decreased quality of life and possibly permanent joint damage. People with PsA are also at increased risk for other diseases linked to inflammation.1,2

Psoriasis

PsA is most often linked to psoriasis, an inflammatory skin disease that often develops before the joint disease. Psoriasis occurs in several forms. The most common form is plaque psoriasis. Plaque psoriasis causes round or oval red patches on the skin that are scaly, itchy, and painful. These lesions mostly occur on the:1

  • Legs
  • Arms
  • Elbows
  • Scalp
  • Torso

Heart disease

Several studies have shown an increased risk of heart disease among people with PsA. Heart disease includes coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, and vascular disease. These can lead to heart attack or stroke.1,2

PsA causes inflammation in the body, which can cause insulin resistance and blood vessel dysfunction. This can lead to abnormal fatty buildup in the arteries (atherosclerosis) and other major heart problems.1,2

You can lower your risk of heart disease by making certain lifestyle changes, such as:1,2

  • Not smoking
  • Maintaining a healthy weight or losing weight
  • Treating high blood pressure
  • Exercising

Obesity

Research shows that about 1 in 4 people with PsA have too much body fat (obesity). Obesity can make PsA symptoms worse because of the excess weight and pressure placed on joints. It can also make medicines not work as well.1,2

Metabolic syndrome

According to studies, about 3 in 10 people with PsA also have metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Criteria for metabolic syndrome include:1,2

  • Insulin resistance
  • Elevated fasting blood sugar
  • High blood pressure
  • Elevated triglycerides in the blood
  • Reduced HDL cholesterol (the "good" cholesterol)
  • Abdominal obesity

Diabetes

PsA has also been linked to an increase in type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease in which blood sugar levels are too high. If left untreated, type 2 diabetes can cause serious problems. It can damage the eyes, kidneys, blood vessels, and nerves. Type 2 diabetes increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and loss of limbs due to amputation.1,2

Experts believe inflammation may be the reason why PsA and type 2 diabetes are so linked. Inflammation caused by PsA can increase the rate of obesity and insulin resistance. Therefore, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases.1,2

Inflammatory bowel disease

Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, occur at a higher rate in people with PsA. Both PsA and IBD are linked to an abnormal immune response, causing excess inflammation in the body. While inflammation is most noticeable in the joints in people with PsA, inflammation is also present throughout the body. In turn, this inflammation may increase the risk of IBD.1

Hearing loss

People with PsA seem to be at a higher risk of damage to the inner ear or auditory nerve. This damage can lead to permanent hearing loss and balance problems. Experts believe the inner ear damage is due to chronic inflammation from PsA.3

Autoimmune ophthalmic disease

PsA is linked to many eye (ophthalmic) diseases. The most common one is inflammation of the middle layer of the eye (uveitis). The effects of uveitis can range from slightly reduced vision to severe vision loss. Uveitis can affect one or both eyes, and symptoms often develop quickly. But in some people, the symptoms can occur more gradually.2

Osteoporosis

Research shows that there is a link between low bone density and PsA. Experts still do not know whether PsA increases the risk for osteoporosis, a condition of weak bones. However, some studies have shown there is a link.1

Fatty liver disease

Fatty liver disease, especially nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, is more common in people with psoriasis. People with PsA may be at a greater risk for developing it as well.1

Depression and anxiety

Mood disorders like anxiety and depression are more common in people with PsA than in those with psoriasis alone. People with many inflamed joints, along with disability, pain, and fatigue, are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety.1,2

Cancer

Several research studies have shown an increased risk of some cancers among people with PsA. These include lymphoma and non-melanoma skin cancer.1,2

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Written by: Jordan Reed | Last reviewed: June 2022