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What is Psoriatic Arthritis?

Psoriatic arthritis is a joint condition that occurs as a result of psoriasis, a scaling skin disorder. Psoriasis typically causes joints to become inflamed, swollen, stiff or painful.

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Causes of Psoriatic Arthritis

The exact cause of psoriatic arthritis is not known. However, hereditary and environmental factors play a major role. Up to 40 percent of people with psoriatic arthritis have a close relative suffering from the condition. For those with a tendency to develop psoriatic arthritis, environmental factors such as a virus, extreme stress or an injury can trigger the disease.

Symptoms of Psoriatic Arthritis

Symptoms vary from person to person and can be mild to severe. There may be times when your symptoms improve - this is known as remission. Your symptoms may get worse at times, which is referred to as a flare-up or relapse. Predicting relapses can be very difficult; however, it can be managed with medication.

General symptoms of psoriatic arthritis include:

  • Flaky scalp
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Swelling of the fingers and toes
  • Pain in the muscles and tendons
  • Pain and redness in the eyes
  • Joint stiffness, especially in the morning
  • Pitting of the nails or separation from the nail beds
  • Swelling and tenderness in the joints on one or both sides of your body
  • Skin patches that are scaly, which can worsen with a relapse

Diagnosing Psoriatic Arthritis

Your doctor diagnoses psoriatic arthritis with an X-ray of the affected joint. An X-ray detects damage and inflammation to the bones and joints. MRIs check for joint, ligament or tendon damage. Ultrasound and CT scans are also ordered to determine how badly joints are affected and to determine the stage of psoriatic arthritis. Your doctor may also order blood tests to detect any inflammation present in your body.

Treatment of Psoriatic Arthritis

There are several treatments and lifestyle modifications that can help ease your pain and symptoms, as well as prevent further damage to the joint. Treatment of psoriatic arthritis involves:

  • Medication: Medications may include different classes such as anti-inflammatory drugs, disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs or DMARD’s (to decrease inflammation), steroid injections, biologics, immunosuppressants, and other drugs.
  • Lifestyle modifications: Some recommended lifestyle modifications include:
    • A moderate exercise program
    • Quitting smoking and limiting alcohol intake
    • Use of heat or cold treatments
    • Eating a healthy and well-balanced diet
    • Getting adequate rest
    • Losing weight
    • Protecting your joints with the use of assistive devices such as splints or braces to support the weakened joints

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