Psoriatic Arthritis is a type of arthritis that produces swelling in the joints of people who have skin psoriasis.
Skin psoriasis causes red, scaly patches on your scalp, elbows and knees. About 15 to 30 percent of people who have skin psoriasis eventually develop psoriatic arthritis.
Most psoriatic arthritis sufferers have a relative with the disease, so it’s likely to be hereditary. In some people with this genetic tendency, an infection or injury can trigger the arthritis to begin.
Physical trauma or something in the environment — such as a viral or bacterial infection — may trigger psoriatic arthritis in people with an inherited tendency.
You are most likely to have joint pain, swelling and stiffness if you develop psoriatic arthritis; this can affect any joint in your body. The disease is very similar to rheumatoid arthritis.
Many people with psoriatic arthritis experience swelling in their fingers and toes. You may also have pain in your feet, particularly where ligaments and tendons attach to the bones in your heel or sole. Lower back pain is also common.
There isn’t a definitive known cause of psoriatic arthritis, but researchers know that there is a genetic factor involved. 40% of people with the condition have a first-degree relative with it too, which means that those with a family history of the disease are more likely to develop it themselves.
There’s also an immunological factor at play. The vast majority of people with psoriatic arthritis develop it after having a psoriasis breakout in the same area. Psoriasis is caused by the immune system attacking healthy skin cells, which suggests that psoriatic arthritis could also be caused by an abnormal immune system. However, the reason for this is probably tied in with genetics; some people simply have genetic markers which make them more susceptible to immune system problems.
Finally, psoriatic arthritis often seems to flare up in response to stress or emotional trauma. It is not fully understood why this occurs, but many people with the condition notice that it gets worse at times that they feel rundown, stressed or have been dealing with difficult life events.
Because arthritis is considered an autoimmune disease, where the body’s immune system overreacts to an environmental trigger, medications that can suppress the immune system can help reduce symptoms. However, they carry side effects, such as an increased chance of getting infections and other illnesses. Steroid injections can also help to reduce pain and inflammation.
For mild cases, some medical professionals treat with anti-inflammatory pain medication and an antirheumatic drug that can squelch the continued progress of the arthritis. While arthritis can go into remission, this type is usually a chronic condition and will flare up from time to time.
More severe cases could require surgery to replace the affected joints.
It isn’t possible to prevent psoriatic arthritis, but it may be possible to reduce the severity of symptoms to make the disease easier to live with.
Exercise is very important for psoriatic arthritis because it helps to stop inflamed joints from becoming stiff, which leads to more pain. Gentle exercise tends to be best because many people with the condition feel unusually tired and struggle with high intensity exercise. Swimming may be a particularly good exercise because being submerged in water can help to relieve pressure on the joints.
Another benefit of exercise is that it helps people to maintain a healthy weight, which is very important for psoriatic arthritis. Carrying extra weight puts added pressure on the joints, so those who are overweight should try to lose weight and those with a healthy BMI should strive to maintain it through regular exercise and a balanced diet.
A balanced diet could also help to alleviate symptoms of psoriatic arthritis. Eating plenty of oily fish, such as sardines, herring, trout, salmon, tuna and mackerel may be particularly helpful since they contain lots of omega-3 fatty acids which are known to help with inflammatory diseases like arthritis.