Diagnosis, Symptoms, And Treatments Of Psoriatic Arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis is a form of a chronic condition that is generally seen in certain patients already dealing with psoriasis, an autoimmune disorder that is characterized by symptoms such as red patches covered with silvery scales. Mostly, patients are struck with psoriasis first and later develop psoriatic arthritis symptoms. However, in some cases, the joint issues can precede before affecting the skin. Continue reading to know more about symptoms, diagnosis, existing and new treatments for psoriatic arthritis.

What are the signs and symptoms of psoriatic arthritis?
The signs and symptoms of psoriatic arthritis differ across patients. Symptoms can keep alternating with remission periods. Moreover, since it can mimic other health conditions, diagnosing it can be a bit difficult. The following are some common types of symptoms observed among patients.

  • Pain and swelling in the joints
    Typically, psoriatic arthritis impacts joints in the fingers, lower back, knees, ankles and toes. It can trigger pain and swelling in one or more joints at the same time. Likewise, it could cause stiffness in the joints after long periods of rest.
  • Dactylitis
    People suffering from psoriatic arthritis might have a severe swelling in their fingers and toes, literally giving them an appearance of sausages. This particular symptom helps in distinguishing psoriatic arthritis from rheumatoid arthritis, in which the swelling is typically restricted to only one joint.
  • Pain in ligaments or tendons
    Often patients suffering from psoriatic arthritis develop enthesitis, a type of inflammation which occurs when the ligaments or tendons attach to the bones. In most scenarios, it affects the heels and bottom of the foot. However, this condition can also arise in the elbows.

Apart from the above-mentioned severe psoriatic arthritis symptoms, patients might also project signs such as skin rashes, pitted nails, fatigue, and pink eye.

If one notices such symptoms, then it is advised to visit a doctor immediately. One should refrain from self-diagnosing practices such as reading the symptoms or looking up psoriatic arthritis pictures online.

How is psoriatic arthritis diagnosed?
To diagnose psoriatic arthritis, the doctor will begin with a physical exam and closely observe for symptoms such as swelling and tenderness in the joints, pitted nails, and discomfort in the feet. If the doctor suspects the onset of psoriatic arthritis, then they will recommend imaging tests such as an x-ray or MRI to observe any glaring changes in the distressed joints or ligaments. On the other hand, to confirm the possibility of other forms of arthritis, the doctors might suggest the following laboratory tests.

  • Rheumatoid factor (RF) – A type of antibody, RF is usually spotted in the blood of patients dealing with rheumatoid arthritis. This test can help the doctor pinpoint whether the person is dealing with psoriatic or rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Joint fluid test – The doctor will extract a tiny sample of fluid from one of the impacted joints, usually, from the knee. If the sample contains traces of uric acid, then it might indicate that the patient is suffering from gout, not psoriatic arthritis.

What are the complications of psoriatic arthritis?
If psoriatic arthritis is left untreated, then it could lead to the following complications.

  • Irreversible damage to the joints
  • Pinkeye
  • Cardiovascular diseases

What treatments are used to for psoriatic arthritis?
At the moment, there is no cure for psoriasis arthritis, therefore the treatment largely focuses on alleviating its symptoms. Doctors usually prescribe medications such as the following.

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – These can help relieve symptoms such as pain and inflammation.
  • Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) – DMARDs encourage to slow down the progress of psoriatic arthritis to protect the joints and tissues from further damage.
  • Immunosuppressants – Such medications are instrumental in controlling the overactive immune system, i.e., they inhibit the production of antibodies which attack healthy cells.
  • TNF-alpha inhibitors – A type of inflammatory substance naturally produced by the body, TNF -alpha leads to swelling and pain in the joints. Like the name suggests, TNF-alpha inhibitors block inflammation and prevent the onset of other painful symptoms.

It is imperative to note that each of these medications come with their own set of side-effects. Therefore, before starting the course, one should be sure to discuss the implications of using such medications.

For severe psoriatic arthritis cases, the patient might have to opt for the following.

  • Steroid injections – This type of medication is directly injected into the affected joint to lower inflammation and pain.
  • Joint replacement surgery – If the joints are permanently damaged by psoriatic arthritis, then they have to be replaced with artificial prostheses made of plastic and metal to regain mobility.

As of now, new treatments for psoriatic arthritis include the recently developed medications for plaque psoriasis which help in inhibiting its painful and annoying symptoms. These include a biologic and targeted DMARD. Likewise, various new treatments for psoriatic arthritis are underway in the form of clinical trials. One can attempt to try these new treatments for psoriatic arthritis, however, it is advised to seek a doctor’s approval before participating as these may carry some form of risk.

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