Psoriatic Arthritis Has Greater Impact on Women Than Men

Dr Laure Gossec

Women with psoriatic arthritis (PsA) experience a higher disease burden than that of men with regard to pain, disability, and quality of life, based on data from a cross-sectional survey of more than 2,000 individuals and their rheumatologists and dermatologists.

Although PsA affects men and women in equal numbers, previous research suggests differences in clinical manifestations based on gender that may manifest in many ways, including quality of life, but data on sex differences in PsA are limited, wrote Laure Gossec, MD, of the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital and Sorbonne University, Paris, and colleagues.

In a study published in The Journal of Rheumatology, the researchers conducted a cross-sectional survey of rheumatologists and dermatologists and their patients with PsA during June-August 2018. The study population included 2,270 adults from France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The mean age of the patients was 48.6 years, the mean duration of disease was 4.9 years, and 46% (1,047 patients) were women.

The survey data included information on demographics, treatment, and clinical characteristics, such as tender and swollen joint counts and body surface area affected by psoriasis. The researchers assessed quality of life on the survey using the EuroQoL 5-Dimension questionnaire (EQ-5D) and the impact of disease using the 12-item Psoriatic Arthritis Impact of Disease (PsAID12). They assessed patients’ disability and work productivity using the Health Assessment Questionnaire–Disability Index (HAQ-DI) and Work Productivity and Impairment questionnaire (WPAI).

Overall disease presentation, duration, and use of biologics were similar between men and women. However, women reported significantly worse quality of life compared with men, with a mean EQ-5D score of 0.80 vs. 0.82 (P = .02).

Women also scored higher than men on measures of disability and work impairment, with mean HAQ-DI scores of 0.56 vs. 0.41 and mean WPAI scores of 27.9% vs. 24.6%, respectively (P < .01).

Disease burden was significantly higher in women vs. men based on PsAID12 scores (2.66 vs. 2.27, respectively) and women reported significantly higher levels of fatigue and pain (P < .01 for all).

More men than women reported working full-time (68.6% vs. 49.4%) but no gender differences emerged for work time missed because of PsA, the researchers noted.

However, women had significantly fewer comorbidities compared with men, based on the Charlson Comorbidity Index (1.10 vs. 1.15, P < .01).

“Other factors not assessed in the study are likely to be contributing to disease burden, and these unmeasured factors may affect men and women differently,” the researchers wrote in their discussion. These factors may include hormone levels and treatment outcomes, as well as sleep disturbance, anxiety, and joint erosion, they said.

The study findings were limited by several factors, including the possible overrepresentation of patients who visited physicians more often, the use of self-reports, and potential recall bias, as well as the lack of data on fibromyalgia prevalence using a validated score, the researchers noted. However, the results were strengthened by the large and geographically diverse study population and highlight the need for more research to examine the additional disease burden of PsA in women, and the potential of alternative treatment regimens to improve management of PsA in women, they concluded.

Mechanisms Driving Sex Differences Remain Unclear

Dr Dafna D. Gladman

“In the past few decades, there has been increasing interest in the effect of sex on the manifestations and impact of PsA as well as on the response to therapy,” Dafna D. Gladman, MD, of the University of Toronto and the Krembil Research Institute at Toronto Western Hospital, wrote in an accompanying editorial.

The current study findings support previous research showing differences in disease expression in PsA between men and women, Gladman said. Several studies have shown more axial disease and joint damage in men than in women, while women reported greater functional disability and worse quality of life than men. The reasons for gender differences remain unclear, and genetics may play a role as well, she said.

Gladman emphasized the need for more research on the impact of fibromyalgia (FM) in particular. “As was shown in a previous study, the presence of FM affects the clinical assessment of patients with PsA,” she wrote. Fibromyalgia and pain reporting also may affect clinical trials of patients with PsA; however, the effect of fibromyalgia on sex differences is uncertain, she said. “In a disease that affects men and women equally, recognizing sex effect is important,” and more research is needed to explore the mechanisms behind this effect, she concluded.

The study was supported by Janssen Research & Development. Gossec disclosed receiving research grants and/or consulting fees from Janssen and 13 other pharmaceutical companies. Several study coauthors disclosed relationships with multiple companies, and several coauthors are employees and stockholders of Janssen. Gladman had no financial conflicts to disclose.

This article originally appeared on, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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