People living with psoriatic arthritis or psoriasis can be at an increased risk of developing asthma.

Psoriatic arthritis is an inflammatory condition that causes joint swelling and pain, but it can also lead to other health conditions that affect other areas of the body, such as the lungs.

As a result, people living with psoriatic arthritis may have a higher chance of developing asthma or other lung conditions. Psoriasis, a related condition that many people with psoriatic arthritis also have, can also increase a person’s risk of developing asthma.

This article explores what experts have to say about the connection, other risk factors for developing asthma, and treatment options.

Over the years, a few studies have looked at how psoriatic arthritis and asthma relate. Many of them examined the link between psoriasis and asthma and lung health. An estimated 30% of people with psoriasis develop psoriatic arthritis and a majority of people with psoriatic arthritis have psoriasis.

The general findings indicate that living with psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis increases a person’s risk of developing asthma.

In a 2020 study, researchers looked at how psoriatic arthritis and associated inflammation affects the lungs and airways. They used a fraction of exhaled nitric oxide (FeNO) as an indirect marker of inflammation.

What they found was that people with psoriatic arthritis had higher levels of airway inflammation compared to people with psoriasis. Though they noted additional research is needed, they believe that clinicians should consider monitoring all people with psoriatic arthritis for airway inflammation.

Their work is similar to a study published in 2018 that looked at psoriasis and inflammation in the airways measured in exhaled nitric oxide (FeNO). Researchers in the earlier study also noted that people with psoriasis should get monitored for airway inflammation to monitor their lung health and provide treatment as needed for asthma or other diseases.

In a 2018 meta analysis, researchers looked at how psoriasis affects asthma risk. They looked at six studies and found that having psoriasis is a predominant risk factor of developing asthma, particularly in:

  • older people
  • people of Asian descent
  • white people

Some experts note that asthma and psoriasis share a common immunophenotype known as the non–type 2 (T2) IL-17A pathway. This could mean a genetic connection between the two conditions and explain why a person with psoriasis may be more susceptible to developing asthma.

The Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis Alliance notes that in addition to being a risk factor for asthma, living with psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis can increase a person’s risk of several different lung conditions, including:

  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • sarcoid
  • lung cancer
  • interstitial lung disease

They also suggest that certain medications used to treat psoriasis, including biologics and other systemic medications, may lead to an increased risk of asthma or other lung issues, such as upper respiratory infections.

Experts do not fully understand what causes asthma to develop in some people.

Theories suggest it may develop due to exposure to one or more of the following possible risk factors:

  • family history of asthma
  • occupational exposure to chemicals
  • smoking, including secondhand smoke
  • viral respiratory infections
  • living with allergic conditions such as hay fever or eczema
  • obesity or overweight
  • exposure to air pollution

In addition, lack of access to quality care and health insurance may lead to an increase in asthma related symptoms. Getting care for asthma can significantly improve a person’s overall outlook for asthma.

A person living with psoriatic arthritis or psoriasis should consider talking to a doctor about their other risk factors for developing asthma. They may be able to suggest steps to help the person reduce their risk.

Treatment for asthma focuses on helping a person breath more easily, reduce symptom severity, and allow the person to continue doing activities they would like to do.

A doctor or medical professional will likely recommend one or more of the following therapies:

  • bronchodilators – come in rapid relief and long-lasting versions
  • antiinflammatory medications
  • combination medications that use both inhaled bronchodilators and inhaled corticosteroids
  • anticholinergics – prevent delicate smooth muscle from tightening around the airways
  • antibiotics or antivirals – help prevent or treat infections if they occur

A person should let a doctor treating their asthma know they have psoriatic arthritis. This may affect what medications they recommend using.

If medications used to treat psoriatic arthritis or psoriasis are causing issues with the lungs, a person may want to discuss other options with a doctor to determine if other medications with less side effects may be effective for their needs.

The American Lung Association recommends people with asthma take time to learn more about the condition as well as how to use their medications and devices, like inhalers. They also recommend that people:

  • develop a management plan
  • take online or in person courses to help with their and loved ones understanding of the condition
  • take steps to avoid triggers, such as smoke or allergens
  • track symptoms and record them to help with doctor visits and help determine progress in treatment

Psoriatic arthritis and psoriasis both put a person at higher risk of developing asthma. This may be due to similar pathways that both conditions share or inflammation that is present in the airways due to psoriatic arthritis.

Other risk factors can increase a person’s risk of developing asthma. A person with either psoriatic arthritis or psoriasis should take steps to avoid other risk factors and talk with a doctor if they develop symptoms that could indicate the development of asthma.

Treatments can help improve asthma symptoms and allow a person to breathe easier. Treatments often include one or more medications as well as avoiding known triggers, such as allergens. With the combination of comprehensive care and patient observance of the recommended treatment strategy, an asthmatic can typically continue with their normal daily activities.