When you have psoriasis, your body’s immune system revs up to battle the skin disease. But sometimes the cells that fight psoriasis turn on your joints instead. The resulting condition, called psoriatic arthritis, causes joint pain and redness, swelling, and trouble moving. Prompt treatment can prevent lasting joint damage.
1. Doctors are still investigating its mysteries.
It’s still not clear why some people develop psoriatic arthritis and others don’t. About 40 percent of people with psoriatic arthritis have a family history, which points to a genetic risk.
2. Signs may develop slowly or quickly.
As with most types of arthritis, joint pain is the most common symptom of psoriatic arthritis. Others include fatigue, low back pain, and changes in your nails. Your fingers and toes may feel hot or swell up.
3. Not everyone with psoriasis gets arthritis.
Doctors estimate that less than half of people with psoriasis will develop associated joint pain. Symptoms typically appear between ages 30 and 50 and an average of 10 years after a psoriasis diagnosis.
4. There are five types of psoriatic arthritis.
Symmetric arthritis affects the same joints on both sides of the body, while asymmetric arthritis doesn’t strike equally. Distal interphalangeal predominant arthritis causes pain in the ends of fingers and toes. Spondylitisaffects the spinal column. Finally, arthritis mutilans is a rare but severe and destructive form.
5. Many people remain undiagnosed.
A survey found about 2 million Americans have been diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis.
6. There’s no single test to spot psoriatic arthritis.
Talk with your doctor if you have symptoms of psoriatic arthritis. He or she may do blood tests, take X-rays or scans, examine your joints, and ask you about your symptoms. This helps rule out other types of arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis and gout.
7. Specialists help you get the best treatment.
Your primary care doctor or dermatologist may be the first person you see when you have a problem. If you have symptoms of psoriatic arthritis, he or she may recommend you see a rheumatologist as well. This doctor has special training in identifying and treating all types of arthritis.
8. Treatment relieves symptoms, slows joint damage.
There is no cure for psoriatic arthritis, but treatments can help you feel better and make life easier. Options range from over-the-counter medications to prescription drugs, injections, and surgery.
9. Medications reduce pain and inflammation.
Your doctor may first recommend anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen and naproxen.
10. Lifestyle changes also help.
Losing weight relieves pressure on your joints. Eating a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains ensures your body gets enough nutrients.