What is Psoriatic Arthritis?

Patients suffering from psoriatic arthritis may experience joint pain, inflammation and swelling, as well as the red lesions on the skin that are covered by dead skin cells associated with psoriasis. Psoriasis is usually present before psoriatic arthritis, although in some cases both conditions are diagnosed at the same time. In other cases, joint pain may be present before psoriasis.

What Causes Psoriatic Arthritis

Both the joint pain of psoriatic arthritis and the lesions of psoriasis are caused by malfunctioning T-cells in the immune system. These cells are supposed to attack viruses and bacteria in the body, but in cases of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, also attack healthy tissue in the body. It is unclear what causes these cells to malfunction, although certain factors have been identified that may put patients at greater risk of these conditions. Psoriasis is the greatest risk factor for psoriatic arthritis. A family history of psoriatic arthritis may also increase one's risk of developing the disease themselves. Most patients diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis are between the ages of 30 and 50.

Types of Psoriatic Arthritis

There are different types of psoriatic arthritis including symmetrical and asymmetrical arthritis. In symmetrical arthritis, 5 or more of the same joints on both sides of the body are usually affected. Asymmetrical arthritis is a mild form of psoriatic arthritis and usually affects less than 5 joints. Joints on only one side of the body may be affected, or different joints on both sides of the body. Distal interphalangeal (DIP) joint predominant psoriatic arthritis is another form of psoriatic arthritis. DIP arthritis is rare and affects the distal joints (small joints closest to the nail on the fingers and toes). Men are most affected by this type of psoriatic arthritis. Spondylitis causes pain and inflammation in the spine and may also affect the lower back, neck and sacroiliac joints. Arthritis mutilans is a rare form that may lead to deformity and disability in the hands. The small bones in the hands are destroyed over time, leading to severe pain and disability.

Treating Psoriatic Arthritis

While surgery is used in rare cases of psoriatic arthritis, medications are usually used initially. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen are used in many cases to relief joint pain and swelling. Corticosteroids, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), immunosuppressants and TNF-alpha inhibitors may also be used. If you notice any of the symptoms of psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis, or if you would like more information about this disease, seek medical advice and discuss your treatment options with a licensed physician. SkinCareGuide.com also provides further information about psoriatic arthritis.