People who have psoriasis know how uncomfortable it can be. In addition to breaking out in rashes — which may burn or itch — up to 30 percent of people also develop psoriatic arthritis (PsA), a type of inflammatory arthritis that causes joint pain and swelling and stiffness, and can lead to permanent joint damage.

Although these conditions are both autoimmune disorders and genetics likely plays a strong role in determining who gets them, lifestyle factors also matter. According to new research presented at the 2018 American College of Rheumatology/Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals (ACR/ARHP) Annual Meeting in Chicago, maintaining a healthy weight and limiting your alcohol intake may be key to lower the risk of PsA if you already have psoriasis.

To conduct the study, scientists at The University of Bath in the UK reviewed more than 90,000 cases of people who had been diagnosed with psoriasis between 1998 and 2014. They then analyzed the records to determine who was later diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis and tried to figure out what those patients might have in common.

The major finding: People who were overweight or obese were significantly more likely to develop PsA compared to those whose weight was normal (body mass index, or BMI, under 25). Being a heavy drinker (or ex-heavy drinker) was also associated with a higher risk of developing PsA.

Although this study doesn’t prove that having a high BMI or consuming a lot of alcohol causes psoriatic arthritis among people who have psoriasis, it builds on earlier research that also suggested these factors are very influential.

The authors conclude that “weight reduction amongst those who are obese may have the potential to greatly reduce their PsA, in addition to providing additional health benefits.”

Even if you already have PsA, it’s worth trying to lose weight if you’re overweight. People who are heavier tend to have more flares and don’t respond to treatment as well as those whose BMI is normal.

Learn About More Rheumatology Research Breakthroughs

Follow our latest ACR meeting coverage to read about the research findings that could affect your treatment, lifestyle, and overall health.

Get involved with Patient-Centered Arthritis Research

If you are diagnosed with psoriasis, PsA, or another musculoskeletal health condition, we encourage you to participate in future studies by joining CreakyJoints’ patient research registry, ArthritisPower. ArthritisPower is the first ever patient-led, patient-centered research registry for joint, bone and inflammatory skin conditions. You can use ArthritisPower to track your disease symptoms, share patterns with your doctor, and participate in voluntary research studies. Learn more here.