What is psoriatic arthritis?
Psoriatic arthritis is a type of inflammatory arthritis that occurs in some patients with psoriasis. It can affect any joint in the body and can lead to joint damage. The condition’s characteristic symptom is the development of red patches of skin topped with silvery scales.
Most people develop psoriasis first and are later diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis, but the joint issues can develop before skin lesions appear.
What are the symptoms of psoriatic arthritis?
Psoriatic arthritis can affect joints on one or both sides of the body. Signs and symptoms of psoriatic arthritis often resemble those of rheumatoid arthritis.
- Development of red patches of skin topped with silvery scales
- Generalized fatigue
- Tenderness, pain and swelling over tendons
- Swollen fingers and toes that look like sausages
- Stiffness, pain, throbbing, swelling and tenderness in one or more joints
- A reduced range of motion
- Morning stiffness and tiredness
- Nail changes—for example, the nail separates from the nail bed and/or becomes pitted and mimics fungus infections
- Redness and pain of the eye, such as conjunctivitis
What causes psoriatic arthritis?
The cause of psoriatic arthritis is not entirely known. 40% of those diagnosed with the condition have a family member with psoriasis or arthritis, suggesting genetics may play a role.
Psoriatic arthritis can also result from an infection that activates the immune system. While psoriasis itself is not infectious, it might be triggered by a streptococcal throat infection, commonly known as strep throat.
How is psoriatic arthritis diagnosed?
Psoriatic arthritis is diagnosed by the identification of symptoms such as swollen and painful joints, certain patterns of arthritis, and skin and nail changes typical of psoriasis. The following exams can confirm diagnosis:
- X-rays, MRI, ultrasound or CT scans
- Blood tests to rule out other types of arthritis
- Skin biopsies
- Rheumatoid factor lab work
- Joint fluid test
What are the treatments for psoriatic arthritis?
No cure for psoriatic arthritis exists, so the focus is on controlling symptoms and preventing damage to your joints. These treatments include:
- Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs
- TNF-alpha inhibitors
Steroid injections and joint replacement surgery are other options.