Psoriatic Arthritis (PsA) is an inflammatory arthritis associated with psoriasis, that affects joints as well as areas where tendons join to bones. Like many forms of arthritis, psoriatic arthritis can cause stiffness, pain, swelling and damage to the structure of affected joints. It mostly affects the joints in the hands and feet, however, it can also affect larger joints including the hips, knees, and spine.
Most people who have psoriatic arthritis find it occurrs after they have developed psoriasis, however a small percentage of people do develop psoriatic arthritis before they notice any psoriasis on their skin.
What are the symptons of psoriatic arthritis?
Symptoms of psoriatic arthritis range from mild to severe with the joints affected becoming tender, swollen or stiff. Symptons are oftern worse in the morning, after rest or exercise. Psoriatic arthritis commonly affects small joints of the hands and feet, where a swollen sausage-like finger or toes is a common sign of the condition. Other common signs that you might have psoriatic arthritis are:
- Stiffness, pain, throbbing, swelling and tenderness in one or more joints;
- Nail changes (such as holes or pits on the surface of the nail, discolouration or lifting from the nail bed);
- Tenderness, pain and swelling over tendons;
- General tiredness;
- A reduced range of motion
Psoriatic arthrtis is often misdiagnosed as tendonitis or tennis elbow, if there is inflammation of tendons without any obvious inflammation of joints.
Who gets psoriatic arthritis?
it is thought that approximately 30% of people with psoriasis will develop psoriatic arthritis.
Most people will so shows of psoriasis on their skin before they notice any symptons associated with psoriatic arthritis. However, in some cases, it is possible that skin and joint symptons occur at the same time rather than one before the other.
People with psoriasis can also develop other forms of arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Just because you are experienceing aches and pains or other joint symptons means that you have psoriatic arthritis. It is always recommonded to seek further advice from your health professional if you are experiencing any joint pain.
It is estimated that between 50% to 80% of people with psoriatic arthritis also have nail psoriais, therefore being an important indicator of possible psoriatic arthritis.
Diagnosing psoriatic arthritis
Psoriatic arthritis is difficult to diagnose because there is no conclusive test for it.
Being an ‘inflammatory arthritis’ means that there is inflammation present in the affected joints, rather than just wear and tear. Because it can present with symptons similiar to other types of arthritis makes it difficult to diagnose and people with psoriasis are also able to develop other forms of arthritis (such as rhematoid arthritis or osteoarthritis), just because a person has psoriasis does’t mean that their arthritis is psoriatic.
In diagnosising psoriatic arthritis a doctor will make their diagnosis based on symptons and an individuals medical history and usually ruling out other conditions. A blood test is usually carried out to test for rheumatoid factor (the antibody found in rheumatoid arthritis), which is usually negative in people with psoriatic arthritis. Your doctor may also use X-rays, ultrasounds or MRI to review your joints, these scans will often show inflammation or areas of new bone growth with poorly-defined edges, therefore indicating a possible presence of psoriatic arthritis.
How is psoriatic arthritis treated?
Just like psoriasis there are a number of treatment options available for psoriatic arthritis and are dependent on who is treating you.
As soon as you are diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis it is important to be referred to a rheumatologist as soon as possible for more specialsist treatment options.
It is possible for a GP to offer some treatment options, however, these treatment options usually only treat the symptons.