What Is Psoriatic Arthritis?
Psoriatic arthritis is a chronic condition. As the name suggests, it occurs in about 15 percent of people who already have psoriasis. Both conditions are caused the immune system attacking parts of the body rather than pathogens. Psoriatic arthritis is equally likely to occur in men and women. While most patients develop psoriatic arthritis between the ages of thirty and fifty, it can begin in childhood. In most cases, people develop the skin symptoms of psoriasis first; few develop the arthritis first.
What are the Symptoms?
A person with psoriasis will have scaly patches on their skin that are red and/or white.
Psoriatic arthritis is a progression of regular psoriasis — instead of the immune system just attacking specific areas of skin, it moves on to also attack the joints.
Large joints are primarily affected, especially those of the legs. It sometimes also attacks the fingers, toes, pelvis, and back. When it attacks the fingers or toes, it can cause a condition called dactylitis that is characterized by extreme swelling. The affected fingers and toes are sometimes described as resembling sausages.
Spondylitis is a condition caused by psoriatic arthritis the affects the spine. Afflicted persons have trouble bending, and they often have pain in the neck or back.
Psoriatic arthritis can also cause enthesitis, which is characterized by tender spots where ligaments or tendons meet bones. It is particularly common in the back of the heel, the elbows, and the sole. Enthesitis is one of the main symptoms of psoriatic arthritis.
What Causes Psoriatic Arthritis?
The exact causes of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis are unknown. However, some risk factors for developing psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis have been observed:
- A family history of the condition
- High weight
These risk factors aside, anyone can contract psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis. If you develop any of the classic symptoms of psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis without having any of these risk factors, it’s important to contact your doctor anyway.
How is Psoriatic Arthritis diagnosed?
The main challenge in diagnosing psoriatic arthritis is its resemblance to other types of arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis. Doctors may, therefore, conduct blood tests, especially if the patient doesn’t have the scaly skin seen in psoriasis.
Doctors will also examine the affected joints and look for certain patterns in the arthritis. They will also look for the characteristic skin abnormalities associated with psoriasis.
How is it Treated?
Although psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis cannot be cured, the pain from them can be managed.
Treatments vary depending on the severity of symptoms and associated pain. Here at Pinnacle Dermatology, we primarily treat it with two types of medication: biologics and systemics. Biologics are administered intravenously while systemics can be taken orally.
We also recommend light therapy treatments on the areas of skin affected by psoriasis. This can alleviate some of the pain caused by the irritation there.
The doctor will also recommend exercise to keep joints flexible and improve the patient’s overall health. Exercising in water helps the patient enjoy the benefits of physical activity without stressing the joints. People who prefer to exercise on land may wear shoe inserts to protect the joints in their knees, feet or ankles.
If you’re struggling with psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis, our medical team may be able to help you manage your symptoms. Contact Pinnacle Dermatology today to schedule your consultation.