Psoriasis is a common itchy, scaly skin disease. If you have been diagnosed with psoriasis and are experiencing aches and pain with swelling in your fingers, toes or other joints, you may have psoriatic arthritis.
With psoriatic arthritis, your immune system attacks your joints and where your muscles and tendons connect to your bone. Inflammation causes pain and stiffness and leads to joint damage. People with psoriatic arthritis, will see swelling in fingers or toes, commonly known as “sausage” digits. Its symptoms mimic those of rheumatoid arthritis, so a clinical exam with lab tests are necessary for diagnosis.
Psoriatic arthritis signs and symptoms
Early recognition and treatment is important to help prevent permanent joint damage. Symptoms are different for each person and can range from mild to severe. Talk to your primary care provider if you experience:
- Changes in your nails like pitting, ridges or thickening.
- Back pain with stiffness usually worse in the morning.
- Swelling of a finger, toe or in the back of the heel.
- Persistent pain and swelling of the joints
“If there is persistent pain from plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis and eye redness or irritation in your eye that can also be an indication for further clinical review,” said Dr. Lisa Francis, Marshfield Clinic Health System rheumatologist. A form of psoriatic arthritis called spondylitis causes pain and inflammation in the spine.
Causes are unknown
Psoriatic arthritis is more common in women around the ages of 40-50 years old, but can affect anyone. People with a family history of psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis have more risk of developing it. However, environmental causes, viral or bacterial infection or injury can trigger a flare-up.
Treatment goals are targeted to improve symptoms and prevent long-term joint damage. “In the last two years we have had more medications approved for psoriatic arthritis to help target treatments,” Francis said.
Medications range from nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and biological agents. Your doctor will work with you to find the right treatment to reduce inflammation, control pain and slow the progression of the disease.
“Each person is different so we individualize treatment to find what works,” Francis said.
Some of these medications can weaken your immune system. So receiving immunizations is important to prevent common infections. Your doctor will work closely with you and monitor your lab results. They will watch for side effects to modify treatments as needed.
Healthy lifestyle choices reduce inflammation
It is important to keep psoriatic arthritis under control. Low-impact exercise to keep you within an ideal weight range can help your medications work more efficiently. A healthy diet limiting sugar and processed foods and eating red meat in moderation will help decrease inflammation.