What is Psoriatic Arthritis and What Can You Do About It?

Psoriatic arthritis is an inflammatory and chronic joint disease. Inflammation is created by the immune system resulting in joint stiffness, pain, swelling and fatigue. The condition is caused when your immune system attacks your healthy skin and joints.

The error made by your immune system often leads to scaly, red patches of skin. Your symptoms may be constant or you may experience flare-ups on occasion.

If you do not receive treatment, the damage to your joints may become permanent. The sooner you are diagnosed, the more effective the treatment. There are different types of psoriatic arthritis including: symmetric psoriatic arthritis (most common type), asymmetric psoriatic arthritis, distal psoriatic arthritis, spondylitis and arthritis mutilans (most severe type). 

What Causes Psoriatic Arthritis?

The cause of this condition is still unknown. The belief is the development is due to faulty immune activity in the body. Specific risk factors and triggers are known including age, cold weather and smoking. Although the specific cause is unclear, research has shown the immune system is a factor. Healthy joint tissues are attacked by the immune cells resulting in the pain, swelling and inflammation of psoriatic arthritis.

Since psoriatic arthritis is more common in families, genetics are believed to play a part. More than 40 percent of all individuals with this condition also have a member of their family previously diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis. Even if you do not have psoriasis, you may still develop this condition. Environmental factors, infections and injuries can cause symptom flare-ups. The most common triggers include:

  • Infections
  • Cold weather
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Excess alcohol
  • Stress
  • Using specific medications

Determining your triggers may help you prevent the occurrence of flare-ups. Writing down your observations may help you identify a pattern enabling you to avoid your triggers.

What Do the Symptoms Feel Like?

Your disease will become worse as time passes. Despite this, you may experience periods of time when your symptoms go into remission or show substantial improvement. Your symptoms can also become worse. Your joints can be impacted on both sides of your body or only one. Your symptoms will be a lot like rheumatoid arthritis. The difference is psoriatic arthritis has additional symptoms including:

  • Pain in Your Lower Back: Psoriatic arthritis can lead to a condition referred to as spondylitis. The result is joint inflammation between your pelvis and spine joints, and the vertebrae located in your spine.
  • Pain in Your Feet: This condition can result in pain in your feet located where your bones are attached to your ligaments and tendons. One of the most common issues is called Achilles tendinitis. This causes pain on the back of the heel. If you feel pain in your foot's sole, it is called plantar fasciitis.
  • Swelling in Your Fingers and Toes: You may experience the pain of swollen fingers and toes prior to any significant symptoms in your joints. You can also develop deformities or swelling in both your hands and feet.

What Can Be Done to Treat Psoriatic Arthritis?

If your condition is mild, you may be treated with NSAID drugs to prevent your body from producing the chemicals responsible for your inflammation. NSAIDs can be purchased with a prescription or over the counter. If your condition is more severe, you may be prescribed DMARDs to decrease or eliminate your pain while preventing damage to your tissues and joints.

You may also be prescribed an immunosuppressant. This drug helps control the immune system for individuals with an autoimmune condition such as psoriatic arthritis. Surgery is not generally necessary to treat your condition. This is an option if you have not responded to any of the other treatments. Surgery often decreases pain, improves the movement of your impacted joints and enables more movement.

During the synovectomy procedure, your joint's diseased lining is removed. If the damage is severe, your joint may require replacement through an arthroplasty surgery. If your joint is too difficult to replace, joint fusion may be an option for decreasing pain while increasing stability and strength. UV light is sometimes used to help eliminate the plaques caused by psoriasis. You will require approval from your doctor because UV light can potentially cause damage to your skin.

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