Psoriatic arthritis typically appears in people between the ages 30 years old and 50 years old, but it can also develop as early as childhood. Men and women are equally at risk. In some cases, psoriatic arthritis appears first, before the skin disorder.
Studies have shown that persistent inflammation caused by psoriatic arthritis can result to joint damage. Fortunately, there are now several treatments available which are also effective for most people.
Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis
Psoriasis is a skin disease in which scaly red and white patches appear on the skin. It is caused by the body's immune system attacking the healthy cells of the skin. There are some people with psoriasis who can also develop psoriatic arthritis. This happens when the immune system attacks the joints as well which will cause inflammation.
Psoriatic arthritis is a type of arthritis that can affect any joint in the body. It may affect one joint, several joints or multiple joints. Affected fingers and toes will look like swollen sausages, which is a condition called dactylitis.
Psoriatic arthritis also cause tender spots in the area where tendons and ligaments join onto bones, a condition called enthesitis. It can result in pain around the elbows, at the back of the heel, the sole of the foot or in other areas. Enthesitis is one of the characteristic features of psoriatic arthritis.
Both psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis are chronic diseases that can get worse over time. Both conditions' symptoms flare and subside.
Cause of Psoriatic Arthritis
The exact cause of psoriatic arthritis is not known. But, it usually occurs when the body's immune system begins to attack healthy cells and tissue. This abnormal immune response causes joint inflammation, as well as overproduction of skin cells.
Genetic predisposition and infection are highly linked to psoriatic arthritis. Many people with psoriatic arthritis have a family history of either psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis. Physical trauma or environmental factors such as a bacterial or viral infection may trigger psoriatic arthritis in people with an inherited tendency.
Symptoms of Psoriatic Arthritis
The symptoms of psoriatic arthritis are similar to the symptoms of other types of arthritis. This is the reason why it is quite difficult to diagnose this disease.
The most common symptoms of psoriatic arthritis are:
- Painful and swollen joints
- Sausage like swelling along the entire length of fingers or toes
- Joint stiffness
- Skin Rashes (thick, red, flaky skin or silver white scaly patches)
- Pain in the tendon or ligament
- Nail changes (pitted or infected looking)
- Decreased range of motion
- Eye Problems (uveitis, conjunctivitis)
How is Psoriatic Arthritis Diagnosed?
When diagnosing for psoriatic arthritis, rheumatologists check for painful and swollen joints, skin and nail changes (psoriasis), and other symptoms of arthritis.
To further confirm the diagnosis and see the severity of the disease, imaging scans are used. X-rays are taken to look for joint damage. For a more detailed view, MRI, CT scan and ultrasound may be used.
Blood tests may also be done to rule out other types of arthritis which have similar signs and symptoms. These include osteoarthritis, gout and rheumatoid arthritis. The results of the blood tests for patients with psoriatic arthritis usually show high levels of inflammation and mild anemia.