In contrast to other chronic rheumatic musculoskeletal diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, comorbidities in axial spondyloarthritis (axSpA) and their impact on disease outcomes are less well studied. The aim of this study was to investigate the prevalence of comorbidities and their association with disease activity and functional impairment in a large population-based cohort of patients with axSpA.
A random sample of patients with axSpA, stratified by age and sex, was drawn from health insurance data. Patients in the sample received a survey on demographic, socioeconomic, and disease-related parameters. Comorbidities were defined using the Elixhauser coding algorithms excluding rheumatoid arthritis/collagen vascular diseases and including osteoporosis and fibromyalgia, resulting in a set of 32 comorbidities. The prevalence of comorbidities in the axSpA patients and their pharmacological treatment were examined. Multivariable linear regression models were calculated to determine the association of comorbidities with disease activity and functional status.
A total of 1776 axSpA patients were included in the analyses (response, 47%; mean age, 56 years; 46% female). The most prevalent comorbidities were hypertension, depression, and chronic pulmonary disorders. The number of comorbidities was significantly associated with both the BASDAI and BASFI: β (95% CI) = 0.17 (0.09-0.24) and 0.24 (0.15-0.32), respectively. When analysed separately, hypertension, depression, and chronic pulmonary disease were comorbidities with a significant and independent association with BASFI, while for BASDAI, such an association was found for depression and chronic pulmonary disease only.
Comorbidities are common in axSpA patients and are associated with higher disease activity and higher levels of functional impairment. Higher disease activity and higher levels of functional impairment might be indicators of severe disease resulting in the development of comorbidities.