Psoriatic arthritis is a condition characterized by inflammation that leads to stiffness, swelling, and pain in the joints. It mostly affects individuals who already have psoriasis, a skin condition marked by red patches of skin covered in silvery scales.
The severity of psoriatic arthritis can range from mild to severe. It can present as oligoarticular, polyarticular and spondylitis. It affects any area of the body, including the fingertips and spine. Most people get psoriasis years before they get psoriatic arthritis. However, for some people, joint problems arise before or at the same time as skin patches appear.
Both psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis are chronic autoimmune diseases, where certain cells in the body attack other cells and tissues. Both conditions can experience episodes of flare-ups and remissions.
While there is no known cure for psoriatic arthritis, the aim of treatment is to relieve symptoms and prevent joint damage. If left untreated, psoriatic arthritis can result in disability. However, by acknowledging the disease and having a clear understanding of its nature, the impact of the condition can be reduced.
The symptoms of psoriatic arthritis can vary among patients, ranging from mild to severe and slow to rapid progression. The condition may only affect a single joint and cause minor discomfort, or it may impact multiple joints and lead to severe pain. Additionally, there can be periods where symptoms improve or even disappear temporarily.
Psoriatic arthritis symptoms are frequently similar to those of rheumatoid arthritis. Both disorders induce painful, swollen, and warm-to-the-touch joints. It can damage one or both sides of the body’s joints.
Psoriatic arthritis is more likely to lead to:
- Pain: People with psoriatic arthritis may experience tenderness, soreness, or swelling where tendons and ligaments attach to bone (enthesitis), such as the sole of the feet and heel’s Achilles’ tendon.
- Back pain: A condition known as spondylitis, is an inflammation that frequently spreads to the joints between the vertebrae, which make up the spinal column. People with psoriatic arthritis may acquire this condition.
- Swelling of fingers and toes: Dactylitis is a painful inflammation of entire fingers or toes that causes them to look like sausages.
- Nail changes: Nails might develop small pits, disintegrate, or split from the nail beds.
- Inflammation of eye: Uveitis is an inflammation in the eyes that often affect the uvea, the central layer of the eye. It can impact the other areas of the eye. If left untreated, it can result in vision loss or irreversible blindness.
It is advisable to seek medical advice if the signs and symptoms of psoriatic arthritis persist. Without proper treatment, psoriatic arthritis can cause permanent joint damage. However, early diagnosis and treatment can help alleviate pain and inflammation, while also preventing further joint complications and damage.
The exact cause of psoriatic arthritis is not yet fully understood. Psoriatic arthritis develops when the immune system destroys healthy cells and tissue in the body. The immunological reaction induces joint inflammation as well as an increase in skin cell development.
However, experts believe that a mix of genetic (hereditary) and environmental factors is responsible. Researchers have identified genetic markers that seem to be associated with psoriatic arthritis. In addition, a family history of psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis is common among many patients with the condition.
It is also believed that immune system issues, infection, obesity, and physical trauma influence who gets the condition.
Psoriatic arthritis affects men and women equally. There are factors that may contribute to a higher risk of getting it, such as:
- Family history: Children of psoriatic parents are three times more likely to get psoriasis and are more likely to develop psoriatic arthritis. People who have psoriatic arthritis most likely have a parent or sibling who also has the condition.
- Psoriasis: The major risk factor for developing psoriatic arthritis is having psoriasis.
- Age: The most common age for juvenile onset of psoriatic arthritis is 9-11 years old. In adults, it is more common between the ages of 30 and 55.