Psoriasis, the inflammatory skin condition causing red patches on the skin, is a risk factor for a type of arthritis known as Psoriatic Arthritis (PsA). Both psoriasis and arthritis are considered autoimmune conditions where the immune system mistakes a part of the body as a foreign invader (e.g. as bacteria or a virus) and attacks it. In psoriasis the target of this attack is the skin, and in arthritis, it is the lining of the joints.
It is not clear exactly how psoriasis and PsA are caused but there appears to be a genetic component. It is estimated that 30% of individuals with psoriasis with develop PsA although it is likely that many cases remain undiagnosed. The reason for this is that it is not a common practice for individuals to link a skin problem to any joint pain they may be experiencing. Furthermore, since psoriasis is usually addressed by a dermatologist and complaints of pain would be addressed by a family doctor or a rheumatologist, it is easy for the two symptoms to remain unconnected by a health professional.
Some signs and symptoms of PsA include:
- Pain, swelling, redness, warmth or stiffness in joints
- Changes to nails such as splitting or separation from the nail bed
- Significant pain in the feet, ankles, soles of the feet or lower back
**If these symptoms persist and don’t go away, see your doctor.**
Treatment for Psoriatic Arthritis
Treatment for PsA is similar to treatment for other types of arthritis. The biggest contributor to arthritis symptoms is inflammation (a consequence of attack by the immune system) so the primary goal is to reduce inflammation. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are a key component in reducing inflammation. For earlier or milder cases of PsA, NSAIDs such as Advil may be prescribed, followed by stronger NSAIDs with disease progression. Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) may also be prescribed to prevent irreversible joint damage that can occur with arthritis. Another treatment option involves the infusion of corticosteroids into joints that have been damaged. In cases of severe joint damage, orthopedic surgery may be advised.
Maintenance of a healthy body weight is also recommended as to reduce the strain on joints.
Further research is needed to help treat PsA and other forms of arthritis in order to prevent serious joint damage. Once a joint has been damaged severely enough, simple tasks such as walking up a flight of stairs, or buttoning a shirt become very painful and very difficult.
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