As the name suggests Psoriatic Arthritis is linked to the skin condition Psoriasis – this causes, and is characterised by, patchy, raised inflammation of skin which then reddens and scales. These itchy scaly areas may appear anywhere on the body and when the psoriasis flare up is then also associated with an arthritic joint – the knee, elbow or finger joints for example, then that combination is referred to as Psoriatic Arthritis. This condition has much in common with Crohns, Reactive Arthritis and other Arthritic conditions. It is considered to be a systemic rheumatic disease and therefore may spread throughout the whole body and even cause inflammation in organs such as eyes, heart, lungs, kidneys.
As with psoriasis it is unclear what exactly causes Psoriatic Arthritis. Those with compromised immune systems may be more prone to developing the illness; there are indications that some sufferers may have a genetic link to the condition and it also seems that physical trauma or an infection – bacterial or viral – may also give the condition the opportunity it needs to develop. There is much ongoing research concerning this condition and one area of interest is discovering if there are any environmental influences that may contribute to development of the disease.
Again as the name suggests those already suffering from psoriasis are at most risk of then developing Psoriatic Arthritis – and it seems that those suffering with nail lesions are the most likely to go on to suffer with it. The same can be said for those with a family history of psoriasis – they are also at increased risk of developing Psoriatic Arthritis. Whilst no race or age is immune from the condition, it does seem to occur most often in Caucasians over the age of 35.
With no known, clear cause of Psoriatic Arthritis focus must be on treating, reducing and easing the unpleasant symptoms. A good programme of treatment is essential to avoid severe, possibly disabling problems as the disease progresses.
The most common symptom of Psoriatic Arthritis is pain, inflammation and stiff in the joints, they may also become hot, swollen and red – these symptoms may be more noticeable in the early part of the day. If a patient experiences pain when walking or climbing stairs it is possible that tendons may be inflamed as well as areas around the cartilage. This disease may also affect the chest wall – the connective tissue between the ribs and breastbone may become inflamed leading to chest pain and shortness of breath. These symptoms must be discussed with your medical practitioner in order to avoid more serious conditions developing. A very common symptom of Psoriatic Arthritis – seen in 80% of patients is changes in finger and toe nails – specifically pitting and ridging of the nails. Other symptoms may include an increase in the appearance of acne; irritation and redness of the eyes, sensitivity to light. Any or all of these symptoms, together with the characteristic dry, red lesions of psoriasis, mean the sufferer should seek immediate medical attention –this condition is a serious and requires prompt treatment in order to avoid severe damage to the joint muscles and tissues. Left unchecked, the condition can be detrimental to quality of life.
Diagnosis of the condition is done through a variety of clinical tests, the patient’s own description of the symptoms and the possible use of out patient procedures such as Arthrocentesis where fluid is drawn from an inflamed joint and sent for analysis. These tests will help to exclude other conditions such as gout or infection. MRI examination or X-Rays may, but not always, be used.
Each patients diagnosis profile will be different and can then be used to treat the condition.