Psoriatic Arthritis: Do You Have It?

I grew up thinking arthritis was a disease of the bones. I had the idea that as a person aged their bones got old and creaky and sore and it made it hard for them to move. I always thought of arthritis as causing stiffness.

Over the years there has been a lot of research done in the area of body structure and it has been found that it is tied in with genetic factors as well as the body's immune system.

Different arthritis-related conditions have been identified. One of those conditions is Psoriatic arthritis.

What is Psoriatic Arthritis?

Psoriatic arthritis causes pain in joints from swelling due to inflammation. In addition there may be gray patchy areas that itch on the skin. About five to eight percent of people with psoriasis have this condition.

Psoriatic arthritis affects both sexes and all races usually occurring between 20 and 50-years of age.

The exact cause of Psoriatic arthritis is unknown although it is expected that at least part of the reason is genetic and a failure of the immune system.

This seems to put it in the family with rheumatoid arthritis and gout.

Symptoms of the disease include pain and swelling in one or more joints, low back or buttocks pain, swelling of the fingers or toes and silver or gray scaly spots.

Psoriatic arthritis is somewhat unique in that it can affect any person a different way than another person.

For example 80% of sufferers live normal lives and yet even the course of the disease in them may be odd.

Twenty percent however can have their lives dramatically altered from Psoriatic arthritis. This may be from structural damage or deformity. Also the "synovial tissue" or "Synovium" is constantly damaged or inflamed which compromises the joints and causes additional problems.

Of the people stricken with the condition, 95% have joint involvement outside the spine. They typically have about five joints involved.

When Psoriatic arthritis is confined to the spine this is called "spondylitis."

As Psoriatic arthritis develops it either takes the path of affecting one side (asymmetrical arthritis) or both sides of the body (symmetrical arthritis).

The doctor will diagnose Psoriatic arthritis primarily by the use of X-Rays and blood tests including a test for gout.

How is Psoriatic arthritis treated?

The difficulty with treating Psoriatic arthritis is that you are treating joints, immune system as well as skin.

In treating the skin you must first avoid adding to the problem by using strong soaps, deodorant soaps and living in a dry home. Additionally it helps to add baby oil to your bath water.

You may try among other light treatments the UVB (Type B ultraviolet light) or PUVA light treatment.

Additionally a person could use corrective cosmetics.

Medications that are used can include non-steroidal drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen sodium.

Other treatments include steroids which will reduce the swelling and inflammation. The problem is that when you use a steroid it affects your immune system.

A very strong drug may be used called methotrexate. This medication takes constant physician monitoring.

In very severe cases the doctor may opt for a gold injection which is a treatment for severe arthritis and gout in treating inflammation and pain.

If you have a history of psoriasis you should be on the lookout for any kind of joint paint and conversely if you have any kind of arthritis especially if it is of a rheumatic nature, you should be on guard for rashes and skin affectations.

Psoriatic arthritis is one condition that if it is given enough of a head start can cause a lot of problems.


"Psoriatic Arthritis," Booklet, Arthritis Foundation