“The most important thing for these patients is early recognition, diagnosis, and treatment of the disease,” says Elaine Husni, MD, vice chair of the Department of Rheumatic and Immunologic Diseases at the Cleveland Clinic.
Many symptoms mimic other conditions or arthritis types, so psoriatic arthritis can be missed or misdiagnosed.
Here are some risk factors and symptoms.
You’re likely to first discuss your signs and symptoms with your family doctor. He or she may refer you to a rheumatologist — a doctor specializing in the treatment of arthritis and related disorders.
What you can do
Before your appointment, you may want to write a list of answers to the following questions:
What types of symptoms are you having? When did they begin?
Are there any activities or positions that make your symptoms better or worse?
Do you or any of your close family members have psoriasis?
Has anyone in your immediate family ever had psoriatic arthritis?
What medications and supplements do you take?
You may want to bring a friend or family member with you to your appointment. It’s hard to absorb everything about a complicated condition, and another person may remember information that you miss.
What to expect from your doctor
During the exam, your doctor may:
Closely examine your joints for signs of swelling or tenderness
Check your fingernails for pitting, flaking and other abnormalities
Press on the soles of your feet and around your heels to find tender areas
Controlling Your Arthritis
Psoriatic arthritis is a form of arthritis that affects some people who have psoriasis — a condition that features red patches of skin topped with silvery scales. Most people develop psoriasis first and are later diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis, but the joint problems can sometimes begin before skin lesions appear.
Joint pain, stiffness and swelling are the main symptoms of psoriatic arthritis. They can affect any part of your body, including your fingertips and spine, and can range from relatively mild to severe. In both psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, disease flares may alternate with periods of remission.
No cure for psoriatic arthritis exists, so the focus is on controlling symptoms and preventing damage to your joints. Without treatment, psoriatic arthritis may be disabling.
Several factors can increase your risk of psoriatic arthritis, including:
Psoriasis. Having psoriasis is the single greatest risk factor for developing psoriatic arthritis. People who have psoriasis lesions on their nails are especially likely to develop psoriatic arthritis.
Your family history. Many people with psoriatic arthritis have a parent or a sibling with the disease.
Psoriatic arthritis can show up at any age (even in children), but it appears most frequently between 30 and 50. There are five types and men and women are equally likely to get it.
About 1 million people in the U.S. have psoriatic arthritis, but there’s no single blood test for it. (There are more than 100 kinds of arthritis and joint-pain conditions, including fibromyalgia, gout, degenerative joint disease, and bursitis.)
The most common is osteoarthritis. About 27 million Americans have this type, which is caused by wear and tear of the joints, not an immune reaction.
A small percentage of people with psoriatic arthritis develop arthritis mutilans — a severe, painful and disabling form of the disease. Over time, arthritis mutilans destroys the small bones in your hands, especially the fingers, leading to permanent deformity and disability.