Psoriatic arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis is a type of arthritis that affects those with the skin condition, psoriasis. In fact, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation, up to 30% of psoriasis sufferers will end up with psoriatic arthritis. The disease can develop at any time, even when actual skin lesions haven’t yet been seen, but it’s more common between the ages of 30 through 50. Psoriatic arthritis also hits men more often than women. No one has identified a direct cause for psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis but research so far shows links to genetic factors, immune system disorders and environmental factors as contributors.

The main symptoms of psoriatic arthritis are just like other forms of arthritis: joint pain, swelling and stiffness. The symptoms can range from mild to severely debilitating and can affect any joint in the body. Just like with psoriasis itself, those who suffer from psoriatic arthritis may experiences cycles with their disease with flare-ups alternating with remission for a period of time. There are five patterns that have been identified with the disease but sufferers can experience more than one over the course of the disease.

  • Symmetric arthritis is very similar to rheumatoid arthritis but usually has milder symptoms and less deformity of the joints. In this case the joints affected are symmetric pairs (both sides of the body) such as the knees or the shoulders. This can be disabling when severe.
  • Asymmetric arthritis can strike any joint in the body and does not occur in pairs but it can involve several joints. This form of psoriatic arthritis is generally fairly mild but it can develop into more disabling symptoms for some people. With this type of arthritis, it is common for the involved joints to be warm and tender or even reddened.
  • DIP (distal interphalangeal predominant) involves only the distal joints of the fingers and toes – that is the outermost joint. This type of arthritis typically affects the nails so changes are quite noticeable. DIP is found in about 5% of the total sufferers of psoriatic arthritis.
  • Spondylitis is another form of psoriatic arthritis that only affects about 5% of sufferers. In this category, the spine is inflamed and stiffness is noted in the neck, lower back or other spinal vertebrae. This form of the disease is quite disabling as it makes movement difficult and painful.
  • The most severe category of psoriatic arthritis is arthritis mutilans which affects less than 5% of sufferers. This form is very destructive to the joints, causing deformity particularly in the smaller joints of the feet and hands.

Treatment for psoriatic arthritis is palliative, rather than curative, meaning that it only provides relief of symptoms and cannot actually cure the disease. For the mildest forms of the disease, treatment with NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) is often all that is needed. For more severe cases, treatment can range from corticosteroid injections to surgical procedures that remove destroyed tissue and sometimes fuse the bones together.

There are some things that you can do at home to help alleviate symptoms and slow the effects of psoriatic arthritis. To begin with, you should be maintaining a healthy body weight for your frame. Extra weight puts additional stress on your joints and can make the pain and inflammation of arthritis worse. Regular exercise is another thing that helps to improve symptoms because it can increase energy and toned muscles give more support to the affected joints. When you do have a flare-up, cold or hot packs may give relief. Cold packs can numb the pain and reduce inflammation while hot packs can relieve tension in muscles which could also relieve the pain.

If you have psoriasis and begin experiencing any kind of joint pain or stiffness, be sure to talk to your doctor right away. By diagnosing and treating psoriatic arthritis early, you will have a better chance to slow the progression of the disease and relieve any symptoms.

Last updated on Jan 8th, 2011 and filed under Musculoskeletal Disorders. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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