What Is Psoriatic Arthritis?
Psoriatic arthritis is a form of arthritis associated with psoriasis, a chronic skin and nail disease characterized by red, scaly rashes and thick, pitted fingernails. The disease is similar to rheumatoid arthritis in symptoms, characterized by joint inflammation. However, psoriatic arthritis tends to affect fewer joints than rheumatoid arthritis and does not produce the typical rheumatoid arthritis antibodies.
What Causes Psoriatic Arthritis?
Although the specific cause of psoriatic arthritis is unknown, psoriatic arthritis is an autoimmune disease. Psoriatic arthritis involves your:
- Genetic predisposition
- Immune system
Most people who get psoriatic arthritis have one or more of the following:
- Psoriasis (plaque, guttate or pustular)
- Psoriasis that affects their nails
- Blood relatives who have psoriatic arthritis
Psoriatic arthritis usually appears about 5 to 12 years after psoriasis begins. Most people develop it between 30 and 50 years of age. But psoriatic arthritis can begin at any age.
It is equally common in men and women. Not everyone who gets psoriasis will eventually develop psoriatic arthritis.
Signs and Symptoms of Psoriatic Arthritis
For most people, psoriatic arthritis develops years after psoriasis. Contact your dermatologist if you have psoriasis and any of these signs or symptoms:
- A very noticeable swollen finger or toe
- Swollen and tender joints
- Stiffness when you wake up or sit for hours that fades as you move
- Nails that are pitted
- Nail separating from nail bed
- Lower back pain
- Heel pain
- Swelling on the back of your leg above your heel
Treatment for Psoriatic Arthritis
Treatment usually involves treating both the skin condition and the joint inflammation. Some medications that UCLA dermatologists use to treat rheumatoid arthritis are also used to treat psoriatic arthritis, including:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications to reduce swelling and pain
- Corticosteroid injections for inflammation
- Immunosuppressive medications, such as methotrexate to suppress inflammation if NSAIDs are not effective
- Biologic medications, such as the drugs Enbrel (etanercept) and Humira (adalimumab)
Other treatment may include:
- Ultraviolet light treatment (UVB or PUVA)
- Heat and cold
- Braces, splints and supports to protect the joints
- Exercise and rest
- Physical therapy to improve and maintain muscle and joint function
- Occupational therapy to improve ability to perform activities of daily living
- Dermatology management of psoriasis skin rash, if present
- Surgery to repair or replace a damaged joint, reduce pain and improve movement
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (310) 825-6911.