You’ve heard of arthritis. You’ve heard of psoriasis. But, have you ever heard of psoriatic arthritis? Sharing a number of symptoms and treatments as other types of arthritis and arthritic-type conditions (e.g., rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, gout), psoriatic arthritis has one distinguishing characteristic: those that live with this disease either have a history of psoriasis or have a family history of it.
In fact, the presence of psoriasis is often the first indication of psoriatic arthritis by symptoms-alone.
Psoriatic arthritis question and answer:
An autoimmune disease is when your own body attacks healthy immune systems. With psoriatic arthritis, your body is attacking healthy joint tissue, causing pain and inflammation. There is currently no cure for psoriatic arthritis.
Known as “flares,” psoriatic arthritis symptoms come and go. You could have no symptoms of psoriatic arthritis for days or months and all of a sudden, they appear again. Complete with pain, swelling, inflammation, tendonitis, and related problems. In very, very rare cases, individuals with psoriatic arthritis seem to go into a remission state, exhibiting no symptoms for years. However, many years later, symptoms tend to return.
Having joint pain on only one side of the body? Does swelling occur down the full-length of your fingers and toes (instead of just concentrated in the first or second joints)? Have you tested negative for Rheumatoid Factor (RF)? Do you have psoriasis (or have you suffered from psoriasis in the past)? Then all signs are pointing toward a diagnosis of psoriatic arthritis.
At first glance, psoriatic arthritis looks a lot like rheumatoid arthritis. In fact, it’s the subtle differences between the two diseases that are key to a proper diagnosis. Rheumatoid arthritis typically affects both sides of the body symmetrically. And, you’ll test positive for Rheumatoid Factor (RF) when your doctor conducts a blood-test. Even trickier, psoriatic arthritis also looks a lot like osteoarthritis and gout. Only your doctor will be able to make a confirmed diagnosis.
Psoriatic arthritis is pretty gender neutral – affecting men and women equally. Whereas rheumatoid arthritis tends to affect woman three times more than men.
The true cause of psoriatic arthritis is unknown. However, most scientists believe genetics plays a large role. In fact, 40% of individuals who have psoriatic arthritis also have a relative who has psoriatic arthritis or a relative with psoriasis. That’s a greater genetic link than any other type of rheumatic disease.
Psoriatic arthritis is not contagious. Nor is psoriasis. However, environmental triggers of the disease can be contagious. Certain viral infections, such as strep throat, which is highly contagious, are thought to “jump-start” the onset of psoriatic arthritis. The reason behind this type of connection is that it activates an already out of whack immune system.
When most people think of arthritis, their thoughts center around joint pain and inflammation. Psoriatic arthritis definitely affects the joints. But, it also can cause a host of other secondary conditions. Some of the most common secondary conditions include tendonitis, eye problems (like conjunctivitis and uveitis), metabolic syndrome (affecting your blood pressure and cholesterol levels), depression, and heart disease.
Your symptoms might not be flaring up. You might not have skin lesions and noticeable psoriasis. Your fingers and toes might not look like sausages. But, that doesn’t mean you aren’t still in pain and still suffering from intense fatigue. Sometimes, friends and family might not understand how much pain you are in because they don’t physically see the symptoms.
The good news? Over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications are available and have great success rates for individuals living with psoriatic arthritis. NSAIDs and DMARDs are two of the most effective types of medications in treating psoriatic arthritis. Additionally, several lifestyle changes also contribute greatly to a state of well-being for individuals living with psoriatic arthritis. Participating in joint-gentle exercise routines, incorporating regular rest periods into your daily routine, and controlling your weight to keep stress off of your joints are all proven methods of helping ease the pain associated with psoriatic arthritis.