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Review

Psoriatic arthritis: recent progress in pathophysiology and drug development

Douglas James Veale

Author Affiliations

Dublin Academic Medical Centre, Centre for Arthritis and Rheumatic Diseases, St Vincent’s University Hospital, Elm Park, Dublin 4, Ireland

The Conway Institute of Biomolecular and Biomedical Research, University College Dublin, Dublin 4, Ireland

Arthritis Research & Therapy 2013, 15:224  doi:10.1186/ar4414

Published: 18 December 2013

Abstract

Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is the second most common inflammatory arthropathy, after rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis, in early arthritis clinics. Most patients have established psoriasis, often for years, prior to the onset of joint pain and swelling; in addition, associated features of nail disease, dactylitis, enthesitis, spondylitis or uveitis may be present. Psoriasis may not be immediately apparent, as small or patchy lesions may occur in the scalp or perineum. PsA presents as a symmetrical polyarthritis, similar to rheumatoid arthritis, or an asymmetrical oligoarthritis with a predilection for the distal interphalangeal joints. Spinal involvement is similar, although not identical, to ankylosing spondylitis. Joint damage occurs early; up to 50% of PsA patients have an 11% annual erosion rate in the first 2 years of disease duration, suggesting it is not a benign condition. There have been significant advances in our understanding of PsA pathogenesis in recent years, in the areas of genetics and molecular biology, implicating both the innate and the adaptive immune systems. This has lead to the introduction of evidence-based targeted therapy, primarily with tumour necrosis factor inhibitor (TNFi) agents. Therapy with disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs, such as methotrexate and leflunomide, remains the first-choice therapeutic intervention, even though there are few randomised controlled trials with these agents. In contrast, a number of successful studies of TNFi agents demonstrate excellent efficacy, in combination with methotrexate, and several novel agents are currently in development for the treatment of PsA.