Psoriatic Arthritis, i.e. PsA is a chronic auto-immune arthritic condition affecting people already suffering from psoriasis. Psoriasis is a type of skin disease that characterizes red patches of the skin accompanied by silvery scales. Although in most cases of psoriatic arthritis, people first suffer from psoriasis and later develop arthritis as well, but sometimes painful joints can happen before developing red patchy skin. It usually affects people above 40 or 50 and is common in men and women alike. Also Read: Reactive Arthritis: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment
Although the exact cause is yet unknown, being an auto-immune condition psoriatic arthritis usually happens when the body’s immune system no longer shields the healthy cell but attacks them. This sudden abnormal response causes an overproduction of skin cells and an inflammation in the joints.
Several researches have surfaced the fact that psoriatic arthritis usually happens due to genetic and environmental factors, i.e. people having a family history of psoriatic arthritis is more likely to develop the condition at a later stage. Sudden physical trauma or an invasion of viruses or bacteria may also trigger an abnormal immune response ultimately leading to psoriatic arthritis. Also Read: Juvenile Arthritis: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment
Psoriatic arthritis can usually be classified into 5 types depending upon the distribution of joints affected. This includes:
Symmetric Psoriatic Arthritis
This type of PsA affects the same joints on both sides on either side of the body. Though it is similar to rheumatoid arthritis, the symptoms are milder than that of the RA.
Asymmetric Psoriatic Arthritis
Asymmetric PsA usually affects one or more joints on one side of the body making the joints sore, red and inflamed.
Psoriatic Arthritis Mutilans
Although a rare type of PsA, this form is usually quite severe and not only affects the hands and feet but also causes extreme pain in the lower back and neck.
Spondylitis Psoriatic Arthritis
Spondylitis PsA usually affects the spinal column right from the neck to the lower back. It can be quite painful and can even spread to other joints of the body.
Distal Interphalangeal Predominant Psoriatic Arthritis
Quite a common type of PsA, this usually affects the joints closer to the nails making them look pitted and deformed.
Although the usual symptoms of PsA are different for every individual ranging from mild to severe, it often goes into remission making one feel better and can sometimes even get worse. The common signs and symptoms include:
- Swollen, tender joints on one or both sides of your body
- Swollen fingers and toes
- Painful muscles and tendons
- Flaky scalp like dandruff
- Eye pain (i.e. uveitis) and redness
- Scaly patches of skin
- Fatigue and morning stiffness
- Nail pitting and deformity
- Pain and stiffness in the spine
- Pain and swelling in various joints of the body
If the condition is left untreated for a long time, it can ultimately lead to arthritis mutilans which is an extremely painful condition causing destruction of the small bones of the fingers, hands and ultimately leading to deformity and permanent disability. In some cases, complications can also lead to vision problems including conjunctivitis and uveitis.
Diagnosis And Treatment
Once you notice any of the above-mentioned signs and symptoms, it is strictly objected to consult a doctor right away to start the treatment in the earlier stages. The doctor usually does a thorough physical check-up by examining any swelling or inflammation at the joints, analysing the condition of the nails and pressing the foot soles or around the heels to look for any signs of pain or tenderness. The doctor may also perform some diagnostics including:
- X-ray to examine the condition of the bone and joints
- Imaging techniques like MRI scan
- Blood tests like Rheumatoid Factor Test
- Joint Fluid Test
The available treatment options mainly focus on providing relief from the pain and inflammation and reduce swelling of joints. The doctors usually prescribe anti-inflammatory, anti-rheumatic and immuno-suppressant medications, steroid injections and certain biologic agents. In severe conditions, the doctor may perform a joint replacement surgery to replace the damaged joint by artificial prostheses.