Do you suffer from psoriasis? Do you also experience joint pain and inflammation? Have you been tested for psoriatic arthritis?
Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is one of the three most common types of arthritis, along with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Men and women are equally affected by the disease. About 1-2 people per 1000 in the general population suffer from PsA. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, the onset of PsA usually occurs in your fourth and fifth decade. Eighty-five percent of individuals with PsA also have psoriasis.
On the flip side, up to thirty percent of the individuals with psoriasis (characterized by red, itchy patches of skin, usually covered in silver scales) will develop PsA. Of patients with psoriasis who did not have PsA at presentation, almost 2 percent per year will be diagnosed with PsA.
What are some of the signs of PsA? There are five patterns of joint manifestations of PsA. These are based on how (and which) joints are affected. Most of the actual symptoms that you experience are the same for all of the patterns of the disease. The five patterns of PsA are:
Some patients will present with more than one pattern, and their pattern of disease may change through the course of their lifetime. Because these patterns can change over time, PsA manifestations are simplified into 5 clinical areas:
The following are some of the more common symptoms of PsA. You don’t have to experience all of the symptoms to be diagnosed with PsA. However, if you suspect you might be suffering from PsA, you should see a doctor to confirm the diagnosis. Symptoms can include:
PsA is a chronic autoimmune disorder where the body is essentially attacking itself. That is, your body’s immune system starts attacking healthy cells and tissue. This autoimmune response is the cause of the joint pain and inflammation.
But what causes the PsA? Unfortunately, little is known about the true cause of PsA; however, it is believed that both genetics and the environment are at play. You are at an increased risk of developing PsA if your family members have psoriasis or PsA. Environmentally speaking, some believe having certain viral or bacterial infections can increase your chances of developing PsA.
The three largest risk factor for developing PsA include:
While the true cause of PsA is unknown, there has been a link among individuals who have psoriatic spondylitis (psoriatic arthritis of the spine) and a specific gene marker. In 50% of individuals who suffer from PsA of the spine, HLA-B27 is present.
Stressful life events can also cause PsA to flare for the first time in individuals predisposed to the disease or in individuals who have already been diagnosed with the disease.
Additionally, the onset of PsA has been linked to individuals who experienced strep throat, pointing to possible viral and bacterial links to at least the onset of the disease.
Obesity can also increase an individual’s risk of developing PsA.
If you’ve already been diagnosed with PsA, you will notice that your symptoms tend to wax and wane. These periods of increased severity of symptoms are called “flares” or “flare-ups” and are very common in individuals who have the disease. While several things may cause flare-ups, the following are the most common:
PsA can be treated through medications and lifestyle changes. Medications most often prescribed include:
Medications can only treat the symptoms of PsA. However, lifestyle changes can help to reduce flare-ups and increase mobility. Some lifestyle changes include:
When you experience repeated PsA flare-ups, you might be able to notice a trend in certain triggers (e.g., stress, eating a certain type of food). If you can spot these triggers, you can concentrate on trying to eliminate or reduce them from your environment.
What is the prognosis for individuals who experience PsA? Some of it depends on the pattern of PsA you have. But, overall, the sooner you are diagnosed and begin treatment, the better your prognosis and pain will be.
While PsA is a chronic, yet progressive disease, in that it tends to get worse over time, you may have a milder form that doesn’t cause too much pain and decreased mobility. For example, the most common type of PsA, asymmetric oligoarticular, tends to come with the mildest symptoms. In contrast, the rarest form, yet the most debilitating form, arthritis mutilans, can cause severe deformities.
Whatever the type of PsA you have, the sooner you receive treatment and the more vigilant you are in making lifestyle changes, the less pain and better quality of life you will experience.