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Psoriatic arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis
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What is psoriatic arthritis?

Psoriatic arthritis is a type of arthritis that causes inflammation in and around the joints, causing them to become painful, swollen and stiff. Psoriatic arthritis tends to affect those who already have the skin condition psoriasis, in fact about 1 person in 10 people with psoriasis develop psoriatic arthritis.

The symptoms of psoriasis include flaky and red patches of skin, commonly this rash is found on elbows, knees, lower back and the scalp, although they patches can appear all over the body.

What causes psoriatic arthritis?

Similar to psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis is believed to occur because your body’s immune system wrongly attacks healthy tissue. Typically psoriatic arthritis develops within 10 years of psoriasis, however for many people the arthritic symptoms are noticed before the psoriasis affects their skin, or they may never develop the skin condition. It is still not completely known why some people develop psoriatic arthritis and some don’t.

What are the first signs of psoriatic arthritis?

The symptoms of psoriatic arthritis are very similar to other forms of arthritis, for example your joints will become painful, swollen and stiff. You may also notice that your joints are red and warm to the touch and they may feel tender too.

Which parts of my body will be affected? 

This type of arthritis can affect any joint in your body, however the joints that are most affected are your hands, feet, elbows, knees, neck and spine. Other parts of your body can be affected by the condition, for example your finger nails and toe nails can become discoloured, uneven in texture and may even fall off. This symptom is specific to psoriasis arthritis and may help our doctor to diagnose your condition.

Symptoms to look out for include:

  • painful swollen, stiff joints
  • red and warm to touch joints
  • discoloured or pitted nails
  • tendon or ligament pain
  • reduced mobility in the affected joints

How will it affect me?

How much you are affected by the condition can differ greatly from person to person, you could experience pain in a number of joints around your body, or you might find that you have mild symptoms in only a couple of joints.

Like many autoimmune diseases, psoriatic arthritis is prone to flare ups where the symptoms are predominately worse, or the conditions will go into remission where your symptoms improve for a short period of times. These cycles are often difficult to predict, but they can be managed by medication, speak to your GP to find out how you can soothe your symptoms.

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What treatment options are available?

There is no cure for psoriatic arthritis, however there are a number of treatments available that will help to control and relieve painful symptoms, such as stiffness and swelling. The treatments will also aim to slow done the condition’s progress, while allowing you more mobility and the ability to regain your independence. Depending on the severity of your condition you many need to try a number of medications and combinations to not only treat the arthritis but also your psoriasis (if you have it).

The main treatments for psoriasis arthritis are:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – These medicines including ibuprofen, diclofenac and naproxen reduce inflammation, pain and swelling. When taking these drugs there are side effects, such as indigestion to consider, you’ll be able to talk through any concerns that you have with your doctor.
  • Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMADs) – This group of medication works on the underlying causes of the inflammation in your joints, helping to reduce your symptoms and slow down the condition’s progress.
  • Corticosteroids – These can help to reduce swelling and pain, by mimicking the body’s anti-inflammatory hormone cortisol. They can be taken in tablet form or your doctor might administer a n injection into a specific joint for quicker relief.
  • Biological treatments – These are newer drugs that are tried if the DMARDs are not working as they should. These medicines stop your immune system from attacking your joints, by blocking specific chemicals in your blood.

Is psoriatic arthritis hereditary?

The condition is not hereditary as such; however it does tend to occur in those related to someone who has the condition.

What joints are affected by psoriatic arthritis?

Any joint in the body can be affected by psoriatic arthritis, however typically the hands, feet, neck, spine, elbows and knees are more commonly affected.

Do I need to follow a specific diet if I have psoriatic arthritis?

No, however some people find that eating salt-water fish and their oil can reduce their need for anti-inflammatory drugs. Also eating a healthy balanced diet will help you to feel your best and give your body the nutrients it needs.