Harvard Health Letter

By the way, doctor: Is psoriatic arthritis serious?

Q. I was recently diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis. It comes and goes, but I still run and lift weights. So far, it hasn't inhibited my activities, but I'd like to know whether it's a serious condition and if it can get worse.

A. As you know, psoriasis is mainly a skin disease. But roughly 10% of sufferers also get a related arthritic condition. Psoriasis is an inflammatory condition, and in some people, the inflammation that affects the skin also affects the joints. Psoriatic arthritis can go into remission or, as in your case, remain mild. But it can also get much worse and result in major disability.

If it starts to progress, psoriatic arthritis can be treated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or with medications used for rheumatoid arthritis, another condition that involves inflammation. We're getting some excellent results with so-called biologics, drugs designed to block a protein that is thought to be involved in the inflammatory process. Two of the most effective are infliximab (Remicade), which is given in a series of infusions, and etanercept (Enbrel), which can be self-injected. Cost is a drawback: Treatment with biologics can run up to $10,000 a year.

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