Ankylosing Spondylitis & Psoriatic Arthritis 2004 (cont.)

Psoriatic arthritis is a chronic disease that is characterized by inflammation of the skin (psoriasis) and joints (arthritis ). Psoriasis is a common skin condition that affects 2% of the Caucasian population in the United States. It is often characterized by patchy, raised, red areas of skin inflammation with scaling. Psoriasis often affects the tips of the elbows and knees, the scalp, the navel, and around the genital areas or anus. Approximately 10% of patients who have psoriasis also develop an associated inflammation of their joints. Patients who have arthritis and psoriasis are diagnosed as having psoriatic arthritis.

Ankylosing spondylitis and psoriatic arthritis are genetically and clinically related diseases. I will, therefore, report on papers presented at this meeting related to both of the diseases here.


Let me start by reporting on a large symposium that was given on ankylosing spondylitis. During this marvelous talk, three world's experts in the field of ankylosing spondylitis made several major points. There is an early, under diagnosed stage of spondylitis that occurs before plain x-ray testing can detect classic changes. Patients who are treated earlier respond better to treatments. Current disease-modifying drugs, such as methotrexate, sulfasalazine, and Arava, which can be effective for joint inflammation of joints away from the spine, are NOT effective for spinal inflammation. If nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are not effective in a patient whose condition is dominated by spinal inflammation (and 50% do respond), then biologic medications that inhibit tumor necrosis factor (TNF inhibitors) are indicated. All TNF inhibitors, including Remicade, Enbrel, and Humira are effective in treating ankylosing spondylitis. The improvement that results for TNF inhibition is sustained during years of treatment. If the TNF inhibitors are discontinued, for whatever reason, relapse of disease occurs in virtually all patients in a year. If TNF inhibitor is then resumed, it is typically effective.

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