Psoriatic arthritis is a type of arthritis that affects some people with psoriasis. It typically causes affected joints to become swollen, stiff and painful.
Like psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis is a long-term condition that can get progressively worse. If it’s severe, there’s a risk of the joints becoming permanently damaged or deformed, and surgery may be needed. However, if psoriatic arthritis is diagnosed and treated early, its progression can be slowed down and permanent joint damage can be prevented or minimized.
Symptoms of Psoriatic Arthritis
The severity of the condition can vary considerably from person to person. Some people may have severe problems affecting many joints, whereas others may only notice mild symptoms in 1 or 2 joints. There may be times when symptoms improve (known as remission) and periods when they get worse (known as flare-ups or relapses).
Relapses can be very difficult to predict, but can often be managed with medicine when they do occur.
When to get medical advice
It is recommended to schedule a visit with a general practitioner if there is persistent pain, swelling, or stiffness of joints – even if the patient hasn’t been diagnosed with psoriasis.
If the patient has been diagnosed with psoriasis, regular check-ups, at least once a year, are recommended to monitor the condition. It is very important to notify the doctor in case of any problems with joints.
Causes of psoriatic arthritis
Almost 1 in 3 people with psoriasis also have psoriatic arthritis.
It tends to develop 5 to 10 years after psoriasis is diagnosed, although some people may have problems with their joints before they notice any skin-related symptoms.
Like psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis is thought to happen as a result of the immune system mistakenly attacking healthy tissue. But it’s not clear why some people with psoriasis develop psoriatic arthritis and others do not.
Diagnosing psoriatic arthritis
A regular annual check up with a general practitioner usually paves the way to an early diagnosis. If the GP thinks the patient may have psoriatic arthritis, they should refer the patient to a rheumatologist (a specialist in joint conditions) for an assessment.
A rheumatologist will usually be able to diagnose psoriatic arthritis while also will be able to rule out other types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
Tests that could help to confirm a diagnosis include:
Blood tests to check for signs of inflammation in the body and the presence of certain antibodies found in other types of arthritis;
X-rays or scans of joints
No cure exists for psoriatic arthritis, so treatment focuses on controlling inflammation in affected joints to prevent joint pain and disability. Methotrexate is the most commonly prescribed non-biologic DMARD (Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs) for psoriatic arthritis treatment.
In Special Hospital Naftalan in Croatia, Naftalan therapy is used for skin diseases (psoriasis, neurodermatitis), and for diseases of the musculoskeletal system (inflammatory rheumatic diseases: rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, degenerative diseases of hips and spine, non-articular rheumatism).
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