10 Surprising Facts About Psoriatic Arthritis

psoriatic arthritis. psoriatic arthritis.

Test your knowledge about psoriatic arthritis.

You've heard of psoriasis. You know what arthritis is. How much do you really know about psoriatic arthritis? We know that researchers have not identified a definite cause for this chronic disease that causes pain and inflammation in the joints. But we know that psoriatic arthritis affects about 1% of the population and can cause pain and discomfort. Test your own knowledge of psoriatic arthritis and see if you learn something that might help you.

Fact #1: Not everyone with psoriasis develops psoriatic arthritis.

Not everyone who has the chronic skin condition known as psoriasis will go on to develop psoriatic arthritis, but many people do. They may have one of several kinds of psoriasis, including psoriasis that affects their nails or the plaque psoriasis that causes scaly red patches of skin to develop. Or they may have family members who have psoriatic arthritis. It can develop slowly over a number of years, or it can appear suddenly.

Fact #2: Your fingers and toes may be affected.

Everyone associates arthritis with joint pain. True, psoriatic arthritis tends to make your joints swollen and painful. But did you know it can also cause your fingers and toes to swell painfully? In fact, you may experience painful swelling before your joints start to ache. This condition, which may make your digits look like sausages, is called dactylitis.

Fact #3: You can blame your aching feet on psoriatic arthritis, too.

You might have never made the connection. But it turns out psoriatic arthritis can cause pain in your feet-specifically, at the places where your tendons and ligaments connect to your bones.

Fact #4: Psoriatic arthritis isn't just for adults.

While psoriatic arthritis tends to develop a few years after psoriasis develops, it can appear at any age. Psoriatic arthritis most commonly appears in people between the ages of 30 and 50, but children can develop this disease, too.

Fact #5: There are actually five kinds of psoriatic arthritis.

Psoriatic arthritis is a catch-all term for five types. Symmetric arthritis affects joints on the same side of the body, while asymmetric arthritis does the opposite. Distal interphalangeal predominant (DIP) affects the joints closest to the nails. Spondylitis causes inflammation in your spine. And finally, arthritis mutilans affects the small joints of the hand and the feet and can cause severe deformities to develop.

Fact #6: Treatment has come a long way.

In the past, you would relieve your psoriatic arthritis symptoms with an over-the-counter (OTC) painkiller, like acetaminophen, naproxen, or ibuprofen. And for many people, those meds work just fine. But for people who need something stronger, a variety of prescription-strength medications are now available, including disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) that can improve pain and swelling, or biologic drugs that work by targeting the source of inflammation that causes psoriatic arthritis symptoms.

Fact #7: Exercise is a must.

Tempted to stay inside and nurse those aches and pains? Take a deep breath and stand up. Exercise is actually a good idea for people with psoriatic arthritis. It can help you maintain flexibility in your joints and those aching joints may actually feel better after you've moved them for a while. Try walking, swimming, stretching, or yoga. Don't forget to make sure you get plenty of rest afterward.

Fact #8: You may be losing bone.

Arthritis mutilans is rare among people with psoriatic arthritis, but the effects can be severe. The joints and bone tissue in your hands and feet-but it more commonly affects the hands-actually start to wear away. As the bone dissolves, the soft tissue has trouble maintaining the structure of the hand. A permanent deformity called "telescoping fingers" develops. Medications and physical therapy can stave off the worst effects.

Fact #9: The risk of cardiovascular disease increases.

Psoriatic arthritis has been linked to an increased risk for cardiovascular disease-think heart attack and stroke. Your doctor may want to check your arteries to make sure they aren't thickening, which would indicate atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis occurs when fatty deposits build up along blood vessel walls, narrowing the flow of blood to and from the heart and other organs. The inflammation associated with psoriatic arthritis may also damage fragile blood vessels, which also affects your risk of cardiovascular events occurring.

Fact #10: A splint might help.

A brace or splint might provide some much-needed support-and relief-to those aching joints and may even prevent further damage from occurring. You need to make sure you get one that's properly fitted, though, so consult with your doctor first.

Source: Jennifer Larson