Many people consider psoriasis a skin disease; however, its primary cause is a malfunctioning immune system. And it doesn't just affect the skin. Many of its worst effects can come from psoriatic arthritis, an inflammatory condition that is associated with psoriasis. Psoriatic arthritis has symptoms like other types of arthritis; stiffness, painful and swollen joints,  and it can be serious. Arthritic and skin flare-ups tend to occur at the same time. Untreated, psoriatic arthritis can cause bone loss and deformation of the joints. Although patients with psoriatic arthrits tend to have mild skin manifestations, the disease is sytemic which means that if affects the whole of the body.  The symptoms of psoriatic arthritis often appear years after the first signs of psoriasis on the skin, but sometimes arhtritis symptoms develop before the lesions. Since it can be a long time before the appearances of the symptoms, psoriatic arthritis can be hard to detect.

Different Forms of Psoriatic Arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis is most common in adults between the ages of 30 and 50, but it can develop in anyone, even children.  Psoriatic arthritis only affects people with psoriasis. There are five different forms of psoriatic arthritis:

Asymmetric Arthritis

This form which makes up about 70% of all cases of psoriatic arthritis, and often affects one or few joints, like knee, hip or fingers.  Although more often mild, sometimes it can be debilitating. Inflamed joints may be red and hands and feet may be swollen.

Symmetric Arthritis

The second most common forms of psoriatic arthritis, and often causes symptoms in the same joints on both sides of the body.  The symptoms are the same as rheumatoid arthritis and can also cause permanent damage.

Distal interphalangeal predominant (DIP)

Affects the joints close to the fingernails and toenails, and the nails are often affected too but is a less common form of psoriatic arthritis.


A form of psoriatic arthritis that makes movement painful especially in the neck and back.  The spinal column can also become inflamed.

Arthritis Mutilans

This form of psoriatic arthritis is seldom but is often destructive.  It can result in permanent deformity, often affecting the hands and feet and sometimes the back and neck.

Symptoms of Psoriatic Arthritis

Symptoms are similar to those other kinds of arthritis, that include:
  • Stiffness of the joints
  • Pain
  • Swelling in the joints
  • Irritation
  • Redness of the eye
In addition, usual symptoms of psoriasis such as red, scaly patches of the skin may also appear.

Treatments of Psoriatic Arthritis

If you have psoriatic arthritis, you should have a treatment that will work on both the joint pain and the skin lesions caused by the condition.  Some common treatments include:
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are a common class of painkiller medications that are usually the first choice for treating psoriatic arthritis.  These include pain killer drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen, others available by prescription.
  • Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are more powerful medicines that are used for severe cases of psoriatic arthritis.  Methotrexate and cyclosporine are both powerful drugs that help fight psoriasis by suppressing the immune system.  They may also cause side effects and increase the risk of infection.
  • Biologic therapy they work by targeting the immune system response that causes the symptoms of psoriasis, preventing the joints from becoming inflamed. So far, two drugs have been approved to treat psoriatic arthritis, Enbrel and Remicade. The evidence so far shows that they may be safer than many systemic medications. One drawback to the biologic medications is that they have to be injected or administered intravenously, and may also increase the risk of susceptibility to infections of the immune system.
Psoriatic arthritis can be upsetting and potentially disabling. Seeing the doctor early and planning on the treatment is the key to prevent the worst symptoms from developing. Never ignore chronic aches and pains in your joints, especially if you have already been diagnosed with psoriasis, because damage to the joint and bones can happen quickly.


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