What is Psoriatic Arthritis?
This illness is a condition of the joints that affects many psoriasis patients. Usually diagnosed some time following the onset of psoriasis symptoms, this condition is characterized by pain and swelling in the joints. Although symptoms can develop in any area of the body, thy are most commonly found in the fingers, toes and spine.
What are the Symptoms?
Although the symptoms of psoriatic arthritis may differ on an individual basis, they usually progress over time and appear between bouts of remission. Much like the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, the signs of this condition include pain and swelling in the joints that can occur on one or both sides of the body. In addition to widespread joint pain, the following symptoms are common among individuals with this illness:
- Swelling in the extremities. This condition often causes painful and severe swelling in the fingers and toes, and may progress to the point of deformation in these areas as well as in the hands and feet.
- Back pain. Many patients with this type of psoriasis suffer from a complication called spondylitis, which results in inflammation in the joints of the lower back and pelvis.
- Foot problems. Psoriatic arthritis often causes pain in the areas of the feet where the bones attach to the ligaments and tendons. In most cases, this occurs in the Achilles tendon and the sole of the foot.
What Causes this Condition?
Psoriatic arthritis is an autoimmune disorder, which means it occurs due to an abnormal response in the body’s immune system. Instead of attacking foreign dangers like bacteria and viruses, the immune system begins to attack healthy cells instead. In patients with this form of psoriasis, this abnormal immune response results in excess production of skin cells and pain and inflammation in the joints.
Although the exact cause of this autoimmune disorders isn’t clear, patients often share common risk factors for the disease. For example, many patients have close family members who have been diagnosed with this condition, and some have been exposed to the same environmental factors or have been diagnosed with similar prior illnesses.
What Risk Factors are Associated with this Illness?
The following are common risk factors among patients with this psoriatic arthritis:
- Plaque psoriasis. Having this skin condition is the most common risk factor associated with this illness. Plaque psoriasis, which is characterized by patches of red, itchy and thickened skin, doesn’t always lead to joint problems, but can in a sizable amount of patients.
- Age. Although patients of all ages can be affected by this joint disorder, it is most commonly diagnosed in those over the age of 30 and under the age of 50.
- Genetics. Having a close family member, such as a sibling or a parent, with this condition significantly increases an individual’s risk of developing it themselves.
There are several treatment methods available to patients with psoriatic arthritis, the most common of which include the following:
- Anti-inflammatory drugs. These drugs reduce pain, swelling and stiffness in the joints, and are usually the first course of treatment for patients with this condition. These medications include both over-the-counter and prescription-strength drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen.
- Antirheumatic medications. These types of drugs address the problems within the joints instead of treating the resulting symptoms. Antirheumatic drugs treat this disorder by reducing the stress and damage to the joints.
- Immunosuppressants. These medications suppress the immune system, which may cause a reduction in abnormal immune responses. Since they work by limiting the immune system’s abilities, these drugs may increase the risk of infection and other dangers. For this reason, immunosuppressants are only used in extremely severe cases of this illness.
There are several ways patients with this condition relieve discomfort and ease swelling and inflammation. Some recommended home remedies and lifestyle changes include the following:
Building muscle strength. Strength-training exercises can help reduce pressure to joints by allowing the muscles to receive the majority of weight and stress.
- Cold and hot therapies. Ice packs and warm compresses can reduce both pain and inflammation to the joints and surrounding muscles.
- Limiting stress to the joints. There are several ways patients can reduce the amount of stress incurred by their joints. This includes maintaining a healthy body weight, using proper lifting techniques and using care when exercising or performing other strenuous activities.