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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. The arthritis associated with psoriatic arthritis comes in five forms including the following:
arthritis that affects the small joints in the fingers and/or toes
asymmetrical arthritis of the joints in the extremities
symmetrical polyarthritis, a type of arthritis similar to rheumatoid arthritis
arthritis mutilans, a rare type of arthritis that destroys and deforms joints
psoriatic spondylitis, arthritis of the sacroiliac sac (in the lower back) and the spine
What causes psoriatic arthritis?
Although the cause of psoriatic arthritis is unknown, factors such as immunity, genetics, and the environment may play a role.
What are the symptoms of psoriatic arthritis?
The following are the most common symptoms of psoriatic arthritis. The skin condition, psoriasis, may actually precede or follow psoriatic arthritis. However each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
inflamed, swollen, and painful joints, usually in the fingers and toes
deformed joints from chronic inflammation
The symptoms of psoriatic arthritis may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.
How is psoriatic arthritis diagnosed?
When psoriasis has been diagnosed, a diagnosis of psoriatic arthritis may be easily confirmed. However, when psoriatic arthritis symptoms precede symptoms of psoriasis, diagnosis is more difficult. Although psoriatic arthritis sometimes causes an increased erythrocyte sedimentation rate, or ESR (a measurement of how quickly red blood cells fall to the bottom of a test tube. When swelling and inflammation are present, the blood's proteins clump together and become heavier than normal. Thus, when measured, they fall and settle faster at the bottom of the test tube. Generally, the faster the blood cells fall, the more severe the inflammation.), mild anemia, and elevated blood uric acid levels, these symptoms are also associated with other rheumatic diseases, including gout.
Treatment for psoriatic arthritis:
Specific treatment for psoriatic arthritis will be determined by your physician based on:
your age, overall health, and medical history
extent of the condition
your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, and therapies
expectation for the course of the disease
your opinion or preference
Treatment usually involves treating both the skin condition and the joint inflammation. Some medications used to treat rheumatoid arthritis are also used to treat psoriatic arthritis, including:
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