What Is Psoriatic Arthritis?

print version share on facebook

Psoriatic Arthritis (PsA) is a form of arthritis that in most cases affects the skin and the joints.

In most cases people with PsA develop the condition following the onset of psoriasis. This does not mean that all people with psoriasis will develop PsA. Due to the similarities of symptoms it may sometimes be confused with other forms of arthritis.

This booklet explains the condition and symptoms that may arise and helps with diagnosis and management of PsA. You will find out about the different approaches to living with the condition as well useful advice on exercise, nutrition and self-management training. There is also some information on your healthcare team as well as the various benefits that may be available to you.

What are the symptoms of psoriatic arthritis?

As with other forms of arthritis, the symptoms of PsA vary among different people. Many symptoms are common to other forms of arthritis, making the disease tricky to diagnose. Here’s a look at the most common symptoms – and the other conditions that share them

  • A red scaly skin rash.
  • Thickening, discoloration and pitting of the nails.
  • Stiff, painful, swollen joints. PsA typically affects the ankle, knees, toes and lower back. The joints at the tips of the fingers may also swell confusing it with gout, a form of inflammatory arthritis that typically affects only one joint.
  • Dactylitis: This is a sausage-like swelling of the fingers or toes. This symptom is one that often helps differentiate PsA from RA, in which the swelling is usually confined to a single joint.
  • Enthesitis: People with PsA often develop tenderness or pain where tendons or ligaments attach to bones. This commonly occurs at the heel (Achilles tendinitis) or the bottom of the foot (plantar fasciitis), but it can also occur in the elbow (tennis elbow). Each of these conditions could just as easily result from sports injuries or overuse as from PsA.
  • Pain and swelling at the back of the heel.
  • Eye inflammation (less frequent).

What is the cause of psoriatic arthritis?

At present the exact cause is not known. Research has shown that a particular combination of genes makes some people more likely to get psoriasis and PsA. However, having genes that predispose you to PsA does not necessarily mean you will develop this disease. Some people think that an event has to occur to trigger it. Unfortunately we don’t know what that “trigger” is. It could be a viral infection, trauma or something else in the environment. There may be more than one trigger.

How does the doctor diagnose psoriatic arthritis?

There is no single test for psoriatic arthritis, but the diagnosis is based on your symptoms and a physical examination. It is easier to diagnose if you have psoriasis along with red swollen fingers or toes. Psoriasis and PsA occur more frequently in some families than in others so your doctor may ask about your family’s medical history.

Sometimes the doctor may make a diagnosis by eliminating other conditions with similar symptoms. He may therefore take a sample from the joint to rule out the presence of gout crystals.

Some of the symptoms of PsA are also similar to other forms of arthritis and it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between psoriatic arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Your doctor may therefore take a blood test for rheumatoid factor to eliminate the possibility of RA.

If several joints are affected, your doctor will consider features such as the pattern of the arthritis – that is, which joints are affected. Your doctor may also send you for x-rays, MRIs and blood tests to rule out these conditions.

Establishing an accurate diagnosis is very important because there are many treatment options to manage the symptoms of PsA.

Download full booklet here

discussion forum blog get the ezine shop
Arthritis Ireland on facebook Arthritis Ireland on Twitter Arthritis Ireland on Google Plus Arthritis Ireland on YouTube Arthritis Ireland on YouTube Arthritis Ireland on YouTube