Adolescents who are overweight by the age of 18 are at a considerably higher risk of being diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis in their later life, new research suggests.

Researchers from the University Of Utah School Of Medicine in Salt Lake City coordinated a study of 943 patients diagnosed with psoriasis between 2002 and 2008 as part of the Utah Psoriasis initiative. Out of this group, it was found that 26.5 per cent patients suffered from psoriatic arthritis, a chronic disease characterized by inflammation of the skin and joints.

A detailed analysis of various risk factors was then conducted by the study group to list out various risk factors that worked against the patients with psoriatic arthritis. It was then that the researchers found that predictors of the disease include body mass index (BMI) of the patients when they were 18 years old.

A comparatively younger age for the onset of psoriasis, having a larger body surface area and being female were the other factors listed out by the team of researchers in Utah. It was found that patients who were diagnosed psoriatic arthritis fell into one of these categories.

Psoriatic arthritis occurred in obese and overweight participants at the earliest. About 20 percent of those who were overweight or obese at age 18 developed psoriatic arthritis by the time they were 35, while 20 percent of normal-weight patients developed psoriatic arthritis by age 48. The study was published in the July 19 issue of the Archives of Dermatology journal.

This research supports a growing concept that patients more prone to psoriatic arthritis might benefit from more frequent and meticulous screening measures for early detection and treatment of the disease.

The disease has to be treated before the development of irreversible joint destruction, says Dr. Razieh Soltani-Arabshahi, of the University Of Utah School Of Medicine in Salt Lake City. The findings were recorded in the latest newsletter issued by the medical school.

The onset of psoriatic arthritis generally occurs in the fourth and fifth decades of life. Males and females are affected equally. The skin disease (psoriasis) and the joint disease (arthritis) often appear separately. The skin disease precedes the arthritis in nearly 80 percent of patients.