What is Psoriatic Arthritis?
Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is a chronic inflammatory disease.
Characterized by joint pain, stiffness and swelling, it affects about one third of people with a chronic skin condition known as psoriasis.
According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, PsA can start at any age, however it most commonly appears between the ages of 30 and 50.
Diagnosing PsA can be tough because the symptoms are similar to other forms of inflammatory arthritis, for example rheumatoid arthritis.
What Causes Psoriatic Arthritis?
Psoriatic arthritis is caused by your body’s immune system attacking healthy joint tissue. In turn, this causes inflammation, swelling, stiffness, and pain.
However, it isn’t quite clear why this happens.
Many medical professionals believe that both genetic and environmental factors play a role.
For example, researchers have uncovered certain genetic signals that may leave individuals predisposed to the condition.
In addition, the National Psoriasis Foundation cites stress, illness (particularly strep infections), injury to the skin and certain medications as common triggers.
Yet, the role and extent each plays is still largely unknown.
Psoriatic Arthritis Symptoms
Psoriatic arthritis symptoms are diverse and can affect joints, ligaments, skin, and nails.
The most common symptoms include:
- Joint stiffness, pain, and swelling of one or more joints
- Inflammation of the fingers or toes
- Pitting edema of the extremities
- Sensitivity or inflammation where tendons or ligaments attach
- Separation from the nail bed, tiny dents, or crumbling of the nails
- Eye inflammation, redness, and pain or blurry vision
- Fatigue or lack of energy
However, some of these symptoms may be mild or even unnoticeable. As a result, it is important to pay attention to warning signs before a flare up occurs.
Identifying PsA early on can help avoid permanent joint damage.
Psoriatic Arthritis Nails
Psoriatic arthritis nails affect up to 80% of patients with PsA.
Generally, they are characterized by pitting, crumbling, ridging, thickening and even color changes.
In some cases, Onycholysis may occur which is when the nail separates from the underlying nail bed. This can be an issue because it creates a pocket for fungi and bacteria to develop.
Keeping nails short can be an important strategy to minimizing damage from psoriatic nails.
Psoriatic Arthritis Rash
A psoriatic arthritis rash is one of the most recognized and distinct symptoms of PsA.
Oftentimes, it will appear on the hands, face, scalp, elbows, knees and lower back. However, it can really appear anywhere.
Typically, the rash has thick red patches on the skin with white or silvery scales but it may present differently for different individuals both in terms of severity and presentation.
The most common choices for symptom relief are topical medications and light therapy.
Psoriatic Arthritis Feet and Hands
Psoriatic arthritis feet and hands are another recognizable symptom given the significant swelling.
This swelling can cause pain, tenderness, and stiffness in the affected limb. In extreme cases, it can give an almost sausage like look to your fingers and toes.
It is very important to identify and consider treatment options early because the joint damage can lead to deformities in your hands and feet if left untreated.
Psoriatic Arthritis Treatment
Psoriatic arthritis treatment will vary from person to person depending on their background and the severity of the condition.
Your doctor will be able to suggest a treatment option that best fits your individual circumstances, however some common treatment options include:
- NSAIDS or Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs
- DMARDS or Disease-Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs
Talk with your doctor to discuss a treatment option that works best for your individual condition.
Wrapping Things Up
If you think you might be experiencing symptoms of PsA, talk with your doctor as soon as possible.
Psoriasis is not contagious, however it is important to identify the disease early on in order to minimize potential damage and discuss potential treatment options.
Although there is no cure for PsA, treatment can help relieve some of the symptoms and make them more manageable.