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The Symptoms and Treatment Options for Psoriatic Arthritis

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For those suffering from psoriasis, a serious condition of the skin, there exists the potential to develop psoriatic arthritis. While no cure exits for this condition, it is imperative that the focus remain on the symptoms and how to prevent damage to the joints. Without treatment and a commitment to regular exercise, psoriatic arthritis can be debilitating.

Although sufferers of psoriasis and/or psoriatic arthritis may recognize periods of remission or times when their symptoms seem to improve, both diseases are chronic in nature and tend to worsen over time. Frequently, both the skin and the joint issues can appear and disappear simultaneously.

Among the main symptoms of psoriatic arthritis are joint pain, stiffness, and swelling. These issues can affect any part of the body, even the fingertips and the spine. They can range in degree from mild to severe. If you are experiencing psoriatic arthritis, you may notice pain in the affected joints or swollen, warm-to-the-touch joints.

The medical community recognizes five types of psoriatic arthritis. The mildest form, asymmetric psoriatic arthritis, generally affects the joints on one side of the body only or different joints on each side, and can include the joints of the hip, ankle, or wrist. Typically, less than five joints are affected, and they are usually tender and red.

Symmetric psoriatic arthritis involves pain in the joints on both sides of the body, and can affect more than five joints at a time on both sides of the body. This is seen more frequently in women than in men.

Distal interphalangeal (DIP) joint predominant psoriatic arthritis is the rarest form and is usually only present in men. It affects the joints near the nails in the fingers and in the toes. The nails may show signs of psoriasis that include thickening, pitting, and discoloration.

Another type of psoriatic arthritis is spondylitis, which can create inflammation in the spine, as well as in the neck, lower back, and the sacroiliac joints. The inflammation can also affect the ligaments and tendons that attach to the spine. With the progression of the disease, movement is painful and challenging.

Finally, a very small percentage of patients with psoriatic arthritis may develop arthritis mutilans, which is a very disabling and severe form of the disease. It can, over time, destroy the smaller bones of the hands, causing deformity and disability.

The risk factors of developing psoriatic arthritis include having psoriasis initially, especially if you have psoriasis on the fingernails and toenails. If other members of your family have sustained the disease, this increases your risk factor. Psoriatic arthritis is usually seen in people between the ages of 30 and 50. Finally, although psoriatic arthritis does not discriminate between men and women, men are more likely to experience DIP arthritis and spondylitis, whereas women are more likely to develop symmetric arthritis.

Among the complications from this disease include swollen fingers and toes. A podiatrist may be a good choice of health care providers to assist you with any problems related to your toes or ankles. Foot pain is another condition seen with psoriatic arthritis. Back and neck pain are also common culprits to this disease.

Although most frequently the skin problems associated with psoriasis develop before the signs of arthritis set in, there have been cases wherein the arthritic condition presented first or both problems were diagnosed simultaneously.

Among the diagnostic tests to confirm this disease include X-rays, a joint fluid test, blood test checks, and a rheumatoid factor (RF) test, which can help the doctor determine if it is rheumatoid arthritis or psoriatic arthritis.

The medications usually prescribed to treat psoriatic arthritis include aspirin and ibuprofen, as well as prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. For mild cases of the disease, your doctor may recommend corticosteroids that help to control random joint pain. Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs not only reduce pain and inflammation, but they also limit the amount of damage to the joints that is seen with psoriatic arthritis. For severe cases of the disease, your doctor my suggest tumor necrosis factor-alpha inhibitors, which contain a protein that inhibits the inflammation of some forms of arthritis. Surgical intervention as a treatment method is rare.

There are, however, many things you can do on your own accord to help with the disease. Be sure to maintain a healthy weight. Get frequent exercise. Use proper body mechanics. The use of cold and hot packs can help with the pain and inflammation as well. Just be sure to discuss all of these options with your doctor first.

(Information for this article was provided by http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/psoriatic-arthritis/DS00476/)

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.