Psoriatic arthritis and psoriasis are two chronic conditions that are closely related but different. While they often occur together in some patients, an individual can have one of these conditions without the other. Keep reading to find out how psoriatic arthritis and psoriasis are linked.
What Is Psoriatic Arthritis?
Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is a type of arthritis that occurs when the body’s immune system attacks ligament tissues causing the joints to become stiff, painful, and inflamed. While Psoriatic arthritis can develop at any age, most individuals usually start to experience symptoms between 35 and 55.
If not managed effectively, psoriatic arthritis can worsen over time and cause joint damage and deformation. In such cases, surgery might be required to rectify the condition. On the other hand, if diagnosed and treated early, the progression of psoriatic arthritis can be slowed down to prevent permanent joint damage.
Psoriatic arthritis often occurs concurrently with psoriasis, an autoimmune skin condition. Common symptoms of psoriasis include itchiness, inflamed patches of skin, reddening, and pitting of nails.
Can One Have Psoriatic Arthritis Without Psoriasis?
Yes. An individual can develop psoriatic arthritis without psoriasis, although this is rare. In most cases, patients first develop psoriasis before psoriatic arthritis emerges, typically within 7 to 10 years. However, a minority of people will experience symptoms of psoriatic arthritis first before any skin disease manifests.
Even so, some individuals with psoriatic arthritis will live their lives without ever developing psoriasis. Such cases are common where there is a family history of psoriasis.
Signs and Symptoms of Psoriatic Arthritis
Psoriatic arthritis often presents with different symptoms from one individual to another. Nevertheless, several symptoms are common among patients suffering from this condition. These include:
- Psoriasis symptoms (red, itchy, and scaly skin)
- Swollen and painful joints, particularly in the feet, ankles, wrists, and knees
- Stiffness in the joints causes a reduced range of motion in the hands and feet
- Inflammation of the fingers and toes
- Digestive disorders
- Deformed joints (in more severe cases)
What Causes Psoriatic Arthritis?
While the actual cause of psoriatic arthritis is not clear, doctors believe that genetics, environment, and the state of one’s immunity might play a role.
How Is Psoriatic Arthritis Diagnosed?
Presently, there is no single test that can accurately diagnose psoriatic arthritis. Generally, it is easier for doctors to identify psoriatic arthritis if a patient is also exhibiting symptoms of psoriasis since these conditions tend to occur together. Nevertheless, there are a couple of factors that doctors consider when diagnosing psoriatic arthritis, including:
- The medical history of the patient
- A physical examination
- Imaging such as X-ray, CT scans, MRI, and ultrasound
- Blood tests
Who Can Diagnose Psoriatic Arthritis?
If you exhibit signs of psoriatic arthritis, you are advised to consult your primary care doctor. After conducting a general examination, your doctor might refer you to a rheumatologist specializing in diagnosing and treating arthritis and other conditions affecting bones, joints, and muscles.
Some treatment regimens for psoriatic arthritis can also help ease symptoms of psoriasis. However, if you are suffering from more severe symptoms of psoriasis, you should see a dermatologist for specialized treatment.
How is Psoriatic Arthritis Treated?
Treatment for psoriatic arthritis may vary depending on the severity of the patient’s symptoms. In mild cases, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications may help ease the swelling and relieve pain.
On the other hand, people with more severe symptoms often require prescription medications to control the progression of the disease and prevent permanent joint damage.
Some of the drugs that a rheumatologist might prescribe are:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs)
- Biological treatments
In addition to medical treatments, there are several things you can do to minimize pain and protect your joints from damage. These include:
- Cut down your weight if you are overweight
- Engage in light exercises such as walking and swimming
- Avoid smoking
- Reduce your alcohol intake
- Apply cold compresses to reduce pain and inflammation
While there is no treatment for psoriatic arthritis, simple lifestyle changes can effectively manage the condition. If you are struggling with symptoms of psoriatic arthritis, consult an experienced arthritis doctor to devise a plan on how to protect your joints.