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What is Psoriatic Arthritis?

Updated on June 25, 2009
X-rays are one way that psoriatic arthritis is detected.
X-rays are one way that psoriatic arthritis is detected.

While osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, there are actually over 100 different kinds of arthritis. One of the more common kinds of arthritis is psoriatic arthritis. Psoriatic arthritis is related to psoriasis, which is a skin disease that causes scaly white patches of skin to develop, but it is not contagious. About 15% of people who have psoriasis will develop psoriatic arthritis.

Both women and men can be affected by this type of arthritis and it is more common among those between the ages of 30 and 50. Psoriatic arthritis shows signs of being hereditary, because the disease runs in the families of almost half of those with psoriatic arthritis.

In most cases, the symptoms of psoriasis are first to appear, however about 15% of the time arthritic symptoms, such as joint pain and swelling, are first to develop.

Different Kinds of Psoriatic Arthritis

There are actually 5 different kinds of psoriatic arthritis, which differ in how the affect the body.

The most common type of psoriatic arthritis is Asymmetric Psoriatic Arthritis. Asymmetric Psoriatic Arthritis can affect multiple joints, but it will not affect joints on both sides of the individuals body. For instance, in Asymmetric Psoriatic Arthritis, arthritic symptoms might be present in one knee, but they will not be present in the other.

One of the most common symptoms of Asymmetric Psoriatic Arthritis is swelling in the fingers and toes, which makes them look like sausages.

Unlike Asymmetric Psoriatic Arthritis, Symmetric Psoriatic Arthritis will produce symptoms that are present on both sides of the patients body. For instance, if one knee is affected by Symmetric Psoriatic Arthritis, the other joint will be as well.

Symptoms of Symmetric Psoriatic Arthritis are similar to that of rheumatoid arthritis, which include joint pain, swelling, and a reduced range of motion. However, unlike rheumatoid arthritis, there is less of a chance that deformity will occur.

In Distal interphalangeal predominant psoriatic arthritis, the distal joints will be affected, but it is also common for nails to become deformed or otherwise change.

Spondylitis Psoriatic Arthritis can be very serious and has a specific gene, HLA-B27, which is present about half of the time in the infected individual. In Spondylitis Psoriatic Arthritis, the spine becomes inflamed.

The least common type of psoriatic arthritis is Arthritis Mulitans, but it is also the most severe. It often results in disability and deformity of the joints. Most often smaller joints, like those in the hand, are affected, but it can also be found in the neck or lower back.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Psoriatic Arthritis is treated and diagnosed in a manner similar to that of rheumatoid arthritis. Usually a combination of blood work, x-rays, and analysis of the patient will determine if this type of arthritis is present.

There are a number of medications available to treat psoriatic arthritis, although exercise, weight management, and proper diet are also important. In addition to treating the arthritic symptoms, special cremes are used to treat the psoriasis.


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  • Patricia Rae profile image

    Patricia Rae 6 years ago from Crystal Beach, Ontario, Canada

    Hi, mominthemiddle and brad41, I too have been diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthitis. My family doctor doesn't believe that's what I suffer from, but my Rheumatologist is the one that diagnosed me. I know I have had it for years, but not until that past several years have my joints shown any swelling. When I first went to the Rheumatologist regarding pain in my hands and feet....he ask all about my family history. Heart Disease, Diabetes, cancer, etc. As he was examining my hands and nails. He suddenly asked if anyone in my family suffers r suffered from Psoriasis. I said, yes, my maternal grandfather and I found out later so did my fraternal grandmother. I didn't have the skin disease. He showed me the pitting of my fingernails and said that I have Psoriatic Arthitis. I was stunned. I didn't have the Psoriasis on my skin and he said that it went internal and was attacking my body from the inside. When I have a bad bout or as I say can see more pitting on my fingernails. I agree it's really hard to diagnose. I have gone through all the known arthritis medications on the market and for awhile they helped. Then my body gets used to them and there is no relief. So now I'm onto the Biological drugs and they are expensive. Mominthemiddle, Brad41 is right. A new Doctor is a good idea. A Rheumatologist who know all about PA would be a good place to start. All the best to you both.

  • brad4l profile image

    brad4l 8 years ago from USA

    I can understand how that could be a very hard situation MomintheMiddle. Often, diagnosing the different types of arthritis can be very difficult. This is because in many cases it relies upon ruling out some of the types of arthritis that are more easily tested for, instead of being able to test for a specific type of arthritis.

    From the situation you described, it sounds like seeking a second opinion from a different doctor may be a good idea.

  • MomintheMiddle profile image

    MomintheMiddle 8 years ago from Boston

    Thank you for this article. Do you know if joints are always swollen with PA? I had a doctor just dismiss me outright because he saw no swelling, but yet I cannot stand up! My dermatologist, who is so brilliant I call him "House" believes I have PA and do does my Rheumatologist. I responded well to Methotrexate for a while, now I'm not responding, but unfortunately I had to switch doctors for a number of reasons...any answer is appreciated. My nails are deformed, by the way. I also, oddly, break out in a rash if anyone near me has Strep...I'm a living strep test, that is when I'm not on Methotrexate. LOL. Thanks.