Understanding Psoriatic Arthritis

Specialty Infusion Blog August 4, 2021 Viv C

Psoriatic arthritis is caused by an immune reaction that affects your joints and skin. The actual cause of psoriatic arthritis is unknown, but medical experts believe it’s caused by a combination of environmental factors and genetics. Understanding this chronic illness is important in determining the best course of treatment for alleviating all the symptoms associated.

The Difference Between Psoriatic Arthritis and Psoriasis

Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is a chronic illness where the swollen, sore joints of arthritis are typically combined with the skin condition psoriasis. Psoriasis can start at any age and typically causes itchy, scaly red patches on your skin and scalp.

How Many People Suffer from PsA?

More than 7.5 million Americans have psoriasis, and 30 percent of these people will develop psoriatic arthritis. PsA can start at any age and can also affect children. However, it commonly appears between the ages of 30-50, and typically 10 years after someone develops psoriasis. But there are instances where someone is diagnosed with PsA without ever developing or experiencing psoriasis of the skin.

What are the Symptoms of PsA?

PsA may develop slowly, with mild symptoms. In other cases, it can appear quickly and severely. In some instances, people develop PsA in a joint after an injury. Additionally, scientists estimate that at least 10 percent of the general population inherits one or more of the genes that creates a predisposition to psoriasis.

According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, the most common symptoms of PsA include:

  • Fatigue
  • Tenderness, pain and swelling over tendons
  • Swollen fingers and toes that sometimes resemble sausages
  • Stiffness, pain, throbbing, swelling and tenderness in one or more joints
  • Reduced range of motion
  • Morning stiffness and tiredness
  • Nail changes, such as pitting or separation from the nail bed
  • Redness and pain of the eye

Remember, there is little correlation between psoriasis and PsA severity. While you may have only a few skin lesions, many of your joints can be affected by arthritis.

Types of PsA

There are several different types of PsA:

  • Symmetric arthritis. Typically, this is when the same joints on both sides of the body are affected. For example, the right and left knees can experience PsA symptoms. It is similar to rheumatoid arthritis, but it’s often milder and usually affects five or more joints on both sides of your body.
  • Asymmetric arthritis. Often, this affects the fingers and toes first, and gives them an enlarged and sausage-like appearance. However, it won’t necessarily affect the same joints on both sides of the body, and it often only affects less than five joints.
  • Distal interphalangeal (DIP) predominant. This type of PsA affects the joints in the fingers and toes closest to the nail. Because of this, nail changes are a common symptom.
  • Spondylitis. Spondylitis PsA causes people with this disease to have stiffness in the neck, lower back, or spinal vertebrae. Often, this makes those who suffer from spondylitis PsA have difficult, painful motions.
  • Arthritis mutilans. Finally, this form of PsA affects the small joints at the ends of the hands and feet. Sadly, this is a very severe form, and it causes deformity.

How is Psoriatic Arthritis Treated?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for PsA. However, there are treatment options that help alleviate symptoms that include both the joint pain of PsA and also the skin condition. Your specialists (usually Dermatologists and Rheumatologists) will recommend a “treat to target” approach, so your treatment plan is based on collaboration and your individual condition. This allows your doctors to determine how to measure progress and allow you to select treatments that specifically focus on your personal goals. There are a variety of medications and therapies that have proven successful in managing symptoms for the varied levels of this condition:

  1. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – over-the-counter medications
  2. Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) – administered orally or via injection or infusion
  3. Biologics – administered via injection or infusion
  4. Steroids – typically injected into the affected joint(s)
  5. Immunosuppressants – not used as commonly since the introduction of biologics
  6. Topical treatment – cream, gel, lotion, or ointment can be prescribed or purchased over-the-counter
  7. Light therapy and other PsA medications – specific medication injected under the skin followed by exposure to bright light treats psoriasis skin rashes

How We Can Help

At Specialty Infusion Centers, we believe understanding psoriatic arthritis and how it affects you is a critical part of your treatment plan. We specialize in the management of chronic conditions and fully collaborate with you, your insurance carrier, and your physician to provide a highly personalized care plan. Our centers are 5-star rated and offer private suites, amenities, and convenient evening and weekend appointments.

For more information, contact your specialist or reach us to get started today.