What is Psoriatic Arthritis?
Psoriatic arthritis, in short called PsA, is a rheumatologic disease that effects about 1,5 million Americans. About one in three people with the skin disease psoriasis, will get psoriatic arthritis. It affects the joints as well as the tendons, and it may also affect the spine.
In most people, PsA starts with psoriasis. Most people develop psoriasis about 10 to 20 years before being diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis. This psoriasis may be mild or extensive. People may also develop nail psoriasis, a condition seen more often in PsA than psoriasis without arthritis.
Left untreated, it can lead to joint and tendon damage causing decreased function and disability. The goal of treatment is to prevent decreased function, deformities and disability. People with PsA are monitored frequently to achieve this goal.
What causes Psoriatic Arthritis?
We do not know an exact cause of PsA. This is a multifactorial rheumatologic disease, meaning there are multiple possibilities in the cause. Genes definitely play a role. That is why we see that psoriatic arthritis is clustered in people with the skin disease psoriasis, and even more frequent in people who have nail psoriasis. There are a number of genes that have been discovered to increase risk for psoriasis and for psoriatic arthritis, but there’s no single gene that explains everything. So you may be at risk from a genetic standpoint, but there also is a trigger that turns on the PsA. We don’t know what turns it on; it could be an infection, an exposure to something or another type of stressor.
Another risk factor is being overweight or obese. It may be that obese people have more wear and tear on tendons, which causes inflammation. That inflammation may be the trigger that starts the PsA rolling.
Much like the obesity theory, people with trauma to a joint or tendon may also be at higher risk in developing PsA. In the future.
We are continuing to do research on causes of PsA. At this time nothing can be done to prevent it. But, studies show that people who develop psoriatic arthritis and have access to rheumatologic treatment within six months, are the people who develop less damage and disability.