Psoriatic Arthritis

November 12, 2012

Psoriatic Arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis is a chronic disease, which occurs when the immune system produces antibodies against its own cells and tissues. This causes inflammation of the skin and the joints. The arthritis symptoms are often associated with skin inflammation symptoms.

Causes

Doctors and scientists do not know why the immune system starts attacking its own tissues but they believe that certain environmental factors trigger the reactions in individuals who are genetically prone to the disease. Psoriatic arthritis may affect both men and women. It is usually diagnosed in individuals between 30 and 50 years of age, although it can occur in children as well.

Types

There are several types of psoriatic arthritis:

  • Asymmetric arthritis affects the joints on only one side of your body. It usually affects the knee, ankle, finger or wrists.
  • Psoriatic spondylitis causes inflammation in your spine, neck and the pelvis at the lower back. The symptoms are painful and severe.
  • Distal interphalangeal predominant is a form of psoriatic arthritis that affects the joint cartilages and tissues. It is often difficult to distinguish this condition from osteoarthritis.
  • Arthritis mutilans affects the smaller bones found in the feet and hands. It is a severe form of the disease, and can be extremely painful.
  • Symmetric arthritis causes severe pain in multiple joints on both sides of the body. It can lead to serious disability.

Symptoms

Psoriatic arthritis symptoms may start suddenly or gradually. The symptoms commonly affect the wrists, knees, ankles, fingers and toes, and include:

  • Painful, stiff and swollen joints
  • Thick and rough fingernails
  • Red patches on skin with silvery, crusty scales.

Treatment

Your doctor may use blood tests, physical examination, joint fluid tests and X-rays to diagnose the condition. There is no cure for the disease. However, medications may be prescribed to manage the symptoms, and to slow the progression of the disease.

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are pain medications such as aspirin and ibuprofen. They help relieve the pain associated with psoriatic arthritis. Side effects include kidney damage, fluid retention and heart failure.
  • Disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs limit the extent of joint damage. Drugs such as methotrexate and cyclosporine can provide significant relief. However serious side effects and increased risk of infection may occur.
  • Biologic therapy includes intravenous medications such as Remicade and Amevive. They work by suppressing the immune system.

Talk to your doctor, and discuss the pros and cons of each treatment option before making a final decision.

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