Psoriatic Arthritis 101

If you've ever suffered a bout of psoriasis, an inherited skin condition that causes thick, red, scaly patches, you're at significant risk for an associated disease known as psoriatic arthritis. Experts estimate that almost a third of psoriasis sufferers will develop psoriatic arthritis, which generally manifests about ten years after the appearance of psoriasis. However, in a few sufferers, the joint disease precedes the skin disease. Many people are diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis in their twenties, thirties, and forties, and it can come on gradually or suddenly. Here's more of what you need to know about this condition:

Psoriatic arthritis takes different forms. There are five main types of psoriatic arthritis. Symmetric arthritis mimics rheumatoid arthritis but is milder, affecting the same joint on different sides of the body (i.e., both knees or both ankles). Asymmetric arthritis attacks anywhere from a few to many different joints on different sides of the body. Symmetric and asymmetric arthritis are the two most commons forms of psoriatic arthritis. Much less common is distal interphalangeal predominant arthritis, which involves the distal joints (the ones closest to the nails) of the fingers and toes. Spondylitis, also relatively rare, inflames the spinal column and causes stiffness in the neck and lower back. Arthritis mutans is a severe and disabling form of the disease that mostly targets the hands and feet. Fortunately, the percentage of people who develop arthritis mutans is small.

The severity of the skin ailment does not always mirror the severity of the joint ailment. You may have a mild form of psoriasis, with few skin lesions and little discomfort, and yet may find that you have many joints affected by arthritis. Conversely, your psoriasis may be far worse than your joint issues.

Treatment for psoriatic arthritis is similar to treatment for other types of arthritis. Your physician's main goal will be to reduce pain and swelling and keep joints working fluidly. This may include prescribing a regimen of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs, biologic drugs, or other medicines commonly used to treat arthritis. As with other types of arthritis, staying active and taking care of yourself is important. Maintain a healthy weight and eat nutritiously. Use hot and cold packs, alternating if necessary, to dull the pain. You may also find that having good control over your skin ailments can help you manage the attendant arthritis.

 

Sources:

National Psoriasis Foundation, www.psoriasis.org

Arthritis Foundation, www.arthritis.org