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Health Disparities in Spondyloarthritis: A Deep Dive into the Challenges Faced by Minority Populations

Updated: Feb 23

Author: Yuechun Yao.

Spondyloarthritis (SpAs), a group of inflammatory diseases including Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) and Psoriatic Arthritis (PsA), poses a significant health challenge globally. However, within these challenges lies a more profound issue of health disparities among minority populations. This blog post aims to shed light on these disparities and their implications on treatment and quality of life.

The Burden on African-American Patients

AS is known for causing pain and stiffness in the spine, but its burden seems to disproportionately affect African-American patients. Studies have indicated that African-Americans with AS experience higher levels of disease activity, functional impairment, and radiographic severity compared to other ethnic groups (“Ethnicity and Disease Severity in Ankylosing Spondylitis,” 2018; Jamalyaria et al., 2017). Consequently, the quality of life for these patients is significantly compromised, a situation that calls for urgent attention in medical practice and research.

In addition, PsA is a chronic autoimmune disease characterized by a combination of skin symptoms, typical of psoriasis, and joint inflammation, similar to that seen in arthritis. African Americans with PsA again appear to bear a heavier burden. This group is found to have a higher prevalence of comorbidities like hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and gout, as compared to Caucasians (Ross et al., 2023). These comorbid conditions not only exacerbate the severity of PsA but also complicate its management.

While the focus has often been on the disparities faced by African-American patients, it's important to recognize that Hispanic and non-White patients with PsA also experience significant challenges. Studies have shown that these groups tend to have higher tender joint counts, indicating more severe pain and discomfort, though their swollen joint counts and medication use appear similar to those of White patients (Racial and Ethnic Determinants of Psoriatic Arthritis | RheumNow, n.d.). This highlights a nuanced aspect of PsA's impact, emphasizing the need for a more tailored approach to managing pain and inflammation across different ethnic groups.

Impact on Rural and Low-Income Populations

Patients in rural areas face unique challenges, primarily due to limited access to healthcare resources and specialists (Coombs et al., 2022). This is particularly true for PsA, where the availability of specialized care significantly influences disease management and outcomes (Olivieri et al., 2014). Furthermore, the economic constraints faced by low-income patients mean that even when healthcare is accessible, it may not be affordable, leading to delayed or suboptimal treatment. 

Moreover, the complexity of PsA's impact on minority populations is further exemplified by high rates of radiographic axial disease observed among Hispanic and non-White individuals (Racial and Ethnic Determinants of Psoriatic Arthritis | RheumNow, n.d.). This condition, which affects the spine and can lead to significant stiffness and pain, underscores the critical need for accessible and specialized healthcare services in these communities.

Treatment Disparities: A Cause for Concern

The disparity extends into the realm of treatment. In the case of PsA, African Americans are more frequently prescribed disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) while being less likely to receive biologic treatments compared to their Caucasian counterparts. This discrepancy raises questions about equity in healthcare delivery and access to advanced therapies (Ross et al., 2023). In addition, the delay in diagnosis and longer treatment onset intervals for minority patients (Karmacharya et al., 2021; Patel et al., 2023) further aggravates the situation, leading to prolonged suffering and potentially more severe disease progression. Moreover, Hispanics, compared to White patients, exhibit significantly higher tender joint counts, RAPID3 scores (an indicator of disease activity), and moderate-severe levels of psoriasis (Racial and Ethnic Determinants of Psoriatic Arthritis | RheumNow, n.d.). This not only suggests a heavier disease burden but also points to potential gaps in effective treatment strategies for these populations.

The Role of Insurance and Medication Access

The type of insurance coverage plays a crucial role in the treatment of SpAs. Most patients receiving biologic DMARDs (bDMARDs) or targeted synthetic DMARDs (tsDMARDs) in the USA are insured under Medicare or Medicaid (Ogdie et al., 2021). However, the coverage and access to these medications can vary, influencing the treatment outcomes. For instance, African-American patients report more severe skin involvement in PsA, which significantly impacts their quality of life and emotional well-being (Kerr et al., 2015). This disparity in skin disease severity and the associated psychological impact cannot be overlooked.

In addition, the uninsured rate among minorities heavily impacts patient’s access to the medical service. This is particularly the case for the Latino population. Latinos have higher uninsured rates compared to other ethnic groups. Even with improvements during the COVID-19 pandemic, Latinos still face significant gaps in coverage (Inequities in Health Coverage and Access Black and Hispanic Adults | Commonwealth Fund, n.d.). States that have not expanded Medicaid show higher uninsured rates among Latinos, impacting their access to necessary treatments and medications for conditions like SpAs. This disparity in insurance coverage is a critical barrier to receiving equitable healthcare services, including the latest therapies and interventions for SpAs.

The Need for Equitable Healthcare Access and Personalized Treatment

These findings underscore the urgent need for equitable healthcare access and personalized treatment strategies. The disparities in disease severity, treatment access, and outcomes call for a more inclusive approach to medical research and practice. Healthcare providers must be aware of these disparities and work towards reducing them, ensuring that all patients, regardless of their ethnic background, receive the best possible care.


In conclusion, the health disparities in SpAs among minority populations, particularly African Americans, present a complex challenge that needs to be addressed with urgency and sensitivity. The medical community must strive for more inclusive research and equitable healthcare practices, aiming to bridge these gaps and provide optimal care for all patients, regardless of their racial or ethnic background.



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