What is Psoriatic Arthritis?
Psoriatic arthritis, or PsA, is a condition where both of these autoimmune diseases exist together. Medically, it refers to a form of arthritis, coupled with stiffness and joint pain, that some people suffering from psoriasis, characterized by red patchy and scaly skin, get. While some people may start getting joint problems before the red patches appear, in some people, the red patches appear much before the symptoms of arthritis.
What are the different types of Psoriatic Arthritis?
There are 5 main psoriatic arthritis types including:
- Distal interphalangeal predominant
- Assymetric oligoarticular
- Symmetric polyarthritis
- Arthritis mutilans
What are the symptoms of Psoriatic Arthritis?
Whichever be the psoriatic arthritis type, they are all chronic conditions, the symptoms of which increase gradually with time.
Psoriatic arthritis symptoms may be sudden in some people, while in others they may be subtle and gradual. Psoriatic arthritis symptoms when mild, affect only one joint. When these symptoms are severe, they may affect multiple joints at the same time.
Here are some of the most common symptoms and signs of psoriatic arthritis:
Symptoms of the skin:
- Small depressions on the nails.
- Detachment of nails in finger and nails from the nail bed.
- Small round spots on the skin of the arms, legs, and torso. They may either be scaly or raised.
- Silver or grey spots on the knees, elbows, lower spine, or scalp.
Symptoms of the joints:
- Stiffness or pain in the lower back region.
- Pain, tenderness, or swelling in one or multiple joints. This occurs mostly in the ankles, knees, hands, and feet.
- Pronounced joint stiffness, particularly in the morning.
- Swollen toes or fingers.
- Poor range of motion.
Other signs of psoriatic arthritis include:
- Constant exhaustion
- Eye inflammation
In some cases, these symptoms may develop into serious complications. These include:
- Development of arthritic mutilans, which causes severe pain and may destroy the small bones in the fingers. This often leads to permanent disability or deformity.
- Cardiovascular problems.
- Some metabolic syndromes
What Causes Psoriatic Arthritis?
Though the exact psoriatic arthritis causes are unknown, several studies point towards your body’s autoimmune response. It is said that when your immune system attacks the healthy cells, it causes inflammation of the skin and joints, leading to psoriatic arthritis.
Besides this major cause, psoriatic arthritis causes include:\
- Having a family history of psoriatic arthritis.
Environmental triggers also contribute to a psoriatic arthritis flare. These include:
- Constant exposure to cigarette smoke.
- Chronic stress or anxiety.
- Exposure to cold weather.
- Too much dependence on smoking and alcohol.
- Long-term dependence on certain medications.
How is Psoriatic Arthritis diagnosed?
Psoriatic arthritis diagnosis is done to assess the root cause of the condition and to rule out other possible conditions. Here is how psoriatic arthritis diagnosis is done:
- The doctor will understand your medical history.
- A thorough physical examination will be conducted to look for the physical symptoms.
- Imaging tests such as X-Ray, MRI scan, or an ultrasound may be done.
- Your doctor may advise other tests such as the rheumatoid factor test to rule out rheumatoid arthritis. You may also be advised a joint fluid test to look for uric acid crystals and rule out gout.
How is Psoriatic Arthritis Treated?
There is no known cure for psoriatic arthritis. Psoriatic arthritis treatment focuses on controlling the pain, stiffness, and disability in the joints and inflammation of the skin. It depends on the severity of your condition, your age, and your general health status.
Here are some of the most common lines of psoriatic arthritis treatment:
- You may be advised of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve pain and inflammation. Other medications include conventional and targeted synthetic DMARDs or biologic agents.
- Steroid injections to reduce inflammation of the joints.
- Joint replacement surgery to treat affected joints with metal or plastic implants.
Besides these, psoriatic arthritis patients benefit from therapeutic exercises. Psoriatic arthritis exercises are aimed at relieving pain and stiffness in the joints due to arthritis.
Some of the best psoriatic arthritis exercises include:
- Aerobic exercises such as biking, swimming and walking
- Range of motion exercises such as arm and leg raises, wrist bends, arm circles, etc.
- Weight training such as squats, lunges, pilates
- Tai chi
What should you keep in mind while doing exercises for psoriatic arthritis?
Exercising is critical for psoriatic arthritis patients to maintain flexibility and decrease pain. However, there are some things that you need to keep in mind while doing psoriatic arthritis exercises to gain their benefits:
- Do only those exercises that interest you. This will keep you engaged and motivated.
- You can either do these exercises at the gym or do them as home workouts.
- Always do warm-up and cool-down sessions to avoid muscular stiffness, injuries, and pain.
- Always learn the techniques of the exercises properly from an experienced trainer.
- Use equipment wisely.
- Never give yourself unrealistic targets. Go slow and build upon your exercise regime gradually.
- Always allow yourself recovery time after each exercise session.
- Be consistent and don’t take too many breaks to gain the benefits of the exercises.
- Stay hydrated during your exercise sessions.
- In case you feel severely fatigued after exercising, use an ice pack or a heat treatment.
Can Psoriatic Arthritis be prevented?
There is no known way to prevent the psoriatic arthritis condition. However, you can prevent the effect of its flares by following these simple steps:
- Take your psoriatic arthritis medications regularly.
- Get skin infections and joint injuries treated in time.
- Reduce stress through meditation and mindfulness exercises.
- Maintain your weight at an optimum level.
- Be active and exercise for at least 30 minutes five days a week.
- Take adequate rest.
- Quit smoking and drinking too much alcohol.
- Ensure that your diet contains adequate amounts of vitamin D, omega-3, and glucosamine.
- Avoid processed foods and reduce your sodium intake.
Though psoriatic arthritis is a progressive condition, it is not difficult to understand its symptoms and know the reasons that cause it to flare up. It can be managed well by making holistic lifestyle changes. If at any time you feel that your symptoms are aggravating, seek medical attention immediately.