Psoriasis is a skin disease that may first show as an arthritic condition called Psoriatic Arthritis to some patients. The disease is characterized by a rough and scaly type of skin irritation or rash. It usually starts to show in elbows, knees and the scalp. Problems in the toes, fingernails and eyes may also be experienced.
Although, the disease is not contagious, its cause, like some types of arthritis, is unknown. A proper diagnosis is needed to check for the occurrence of psoriasis and its accompanying psoriatic arthritis. Blood tests, X-rays and joint fluid tests, medical history and physical examination are required.
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People with a weak immune system are believed to be most susceptible to the disease. Insect bites as well as cuts and scrapes are known to trigger the outbreak of the disease.
Psoriatic arthritis causes swelling and pain in the scaly patches of the body affected by psoriasis and not just the joints. Only a minimum of 10% of those who have psoriasis may develop this type of arthritis which usually target men and women ages 20 to 50.
Usually, the symptoms of psoriatic arthritis come slowly and in mild cases. They include apparent pain and redness of the eye, swelling and stiffness accompanied by pain in the joints and the occurrence of grey or silver patches on the scalp, knees and elbows as well as the lower end of the spine. Fingers and sometimes the toes may swell resulting in limited capacity for movement.
There are five known types of psoriatic arthritis and patients may suffer from more than one type.
Asymmetric arthritis does not cause swelling and pain of the joints on the two sides of the body but affects the ankles, wrist, hip and knee.
Symmetric arthritis has symptoms similar to rheumatoid arthritis but milder and the case of deformity is less. Mistaken for osteoarthritis, Distal Interphalangeal Predominant involves the last joints of the toes or fingers. A more serious and severe type of psoriatic arthritis is the arthritis mutilans that affects joints of the feet and hands which eventually result to the destruction of bones and cartilage.
Another rare and serious condition is the Psoriatic Spondyloarthritis which causes deformity and probable changes in posture. Movement of the neck and the lower back may be painful as the spine suffers inflammation.
Treatment for psoriatic arthritis does not include its cure but only prevention of further damage from inflammation and pain relief. Soaking in warm water or warm baths, may give relief along with other heat applications. A dermatologist is needed for the skin problem and a therapist or rheumatologist for the joint disease.
Exercise may be found helpful to strengthen muscles and bones to facilitate better movement. Drugs such as anti-inflammatory analgesics may also be prescribed depending on the patient’s case.
Steroid injections may also be done in certain cases while surgery is usually necessary for severe cases of joint damage. Any form of treatment must be discussed with the doctor because different patients have different conditions and generally have different combinations of the joint disease.