Psoriatic Arthritis: An Inflammatory Autoimmune Disease
Psoriatic arthritis is a type of arthritis associated with psoriasis, an autoimmune disorder marked by scaly red skin lesions. While psoriatic arthritis causes joint problems like those associated with other types of arthritis, it also can affect other parts of the body. Because of its autoimmune origin, psoriatic arthritis may be treated with drugs targeting the immune system. Here is more about this condition and its treatments.
Symptoms of Psoriatic Arthritis
Joint symptoms are typical of psoriatic arthritis and often occur in the hands, feet, ankles and knees. In many cases, the inflammation affects only some joints rather than all at once. Pairs of joints are often affected, joint stiffness is commonly worst in the morning, and some patients have severe joint damage at their extremities.
Other parts of the body frequently affected by psoriatic arthritis include tendons, eyes and nails. Tendon inflammation can make walking painful. With eye inflammation, light exposure can worsen pain. Pitting and ridge formation on the nails of the hands and feet is common.
In rare cases, patients with psoriatic arthritis experience symptoms in their heart, lungs and chest. Heart problems, breathing difficulty and general chest pain, respectively, can occur as a result.
Psoriatic Arthritis Causes and Risk Factors
Of all risk factors for psoriatic arthritis, active psoriasis is the most significant. Many patients also have family members who are affected by psoriatic arthritis. In most individuals, the condition develops when they are between 30 and 50 years old.
As an autoimmune condition, psoriatic arthritis has uncertain origins as scientists still do not fully understand exactly why the body attacks its own tissues. Besides heredity, scientists have found that exposure to certain environmental factors may be involved. Furthermore, researchers have noted that infections and physical trauma can trigger the condition in people who are already inclined to develop it because of heredity.
Diagnosis of Psoriatic Arthritis
Being diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis requires a physical assessment, medical history analysis and lab tests. Signs of psoriasis, such as the red skin lesions characteristic of the disease, will be considered if found. The findings of X-rays and any changes between current X-rays and previous ones may also be assessed. Because psoriatic arthritis shares a number of symptoms with rheumatoid arthritis, specific tests may be ordered to differentiate between the two conditions.
Psoriatic Arthritis Treatments
There is not currently a cure for psoriatic arthritis, but treatment for the condition may include a combination of home and clinical treatments. At home, patients may find that certain lifestyle changes, such as exercising to maintain joint mobility and reducing weight to ease joint strain, may be helpful in reducing symptoms.
Several different types of medications can be used to treat psoriatic arthritis. These include:
- NSAIDs: Aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen sodium are effective at reducing pain and improving joint mobility for many patients.
- DMARDs: Short for disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs, these can be used to keep psoriatic arthritis from progressing as quickly.
- Immunosuppressants: These work on the autoimmune aspect of psoriatic arthritis to reduce the damage caused by the immune system.
- TNF-alpha inhibitors: These block production of TNF-alpha, an inflammatory substance, within the body.
Other clinical treatments for psoriatic arthritis include steroid injections and surgery. With injections of corticosteroids directly into affected joints, patients experience very fast relief of inflammation. Surgery often involves replacing damaged joints with artificial ones.
Psoriatic arthritis can cause serious health problems and reduced quality of life for sufferers. Fortunately, the condition can often be slowed and its symptoms can be treated with lifestyle adjustments and clinical treatments. As research on autoimmune conditions evolves, new and better treatments for this condition are likely to emerge.