Psoriatic Arthritis Symptoms and Diagnosis
There is no specific test for the diagnosis of psoriatic arthritis, however, the diagnosis is typically made by your doctor or rheumatologist (arthritis specialist) through a process of elimination.
They may ask you about your medical and family history, perform physical examinations, as well as blood tests, X-rays, MRIs and ultrasounds. The sooner you seek help, the more control you have over the disease and your lifestyle.
Psoriatic arthritis often develops within a few weeks to a few months, either slowly with minor symptoms, or – less commonly – quickly, with more severe symptoms. Psoriatic arthritis can be extremely difficult to diagnose as symptoms vary from person to person, however, if treated early, people can avoid serious damage to their joints.
The most common symptoms for someone with psoriatic arthritis to experience are:
- Swollen, painful, stiff joints
- Swollen fingers and toes (resembling sausages)
- Changes in the nail (separation from the nail bed resembling a fungus infection)
- Reduced range of motion
- Morning pain and stiffness, usually lasting about an hour
- Scaly and silvery skin patches that itch and burn, typically on the scalp, elbows or lower back
Treatments for psoriatic arthritis are recommended based on the type of arthritis that a person is diagnosed with, the severity of their case and how they respond to different treatments. The most common treatment options include medication and physiotherapy.
For most mild-to-severe cases of psoriatic arthritis, medication is typically the first line of treatment. There are different types of medications recommended based on the type of psoriatic arthritis, however, most arthritis medications are designed to control and slow the progression of the condition and to improve physical function so that people can have an improved quality of life.
The most common medications prescribed to people with psoriatic arthritis are:
- Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs). There are over-the-counter NSAIDs such as ibuprofen or aspirin, however, prescribed options exist as well.
- Disease-modifying Antirheumatic Drugs (DMARDs), both older ones and more recently developed oral medications, relieve more severe symptoms by slowing down joint inflammation.
- Biologics are another medication option (given through injection) and are recommended to patients who do not respond to other medications.
Physiotherapy is recommended as a treatment option to help strengthen those suffering with a lot of joint pain. Based on the type of psoriatic arthritis a person is dealing with, physiotherapists are able to design personalized programs for patients that will help strengthen their mobility, flexibility, and overall strength – helping reduce their overall pain.
Surgery is an option for cases of psoriatic arthritis that are more severe. When a person’s joints become badly damaged, reducing their function, a professional will recommend surgery to try and fix the damage. The surgery should result in less pain and a better range of motion.
Making the proper adjustments in your daily life can dramatically increase quality of life for those affected by psoriatic arthritis. If psoriatic arthritis is detected early enough, people can take charge of their lives depending on the severity. There are many things people can to do to be proactive about the condition however, the following strategies are key for people living with psoriatic arthritis:
Taking part in physical activity will help keep your joints loose and decrease any inflammation or pain that occurs. Physiotherapists can provide patients with unique physical programs to help increase range of motion, strength and flexibility. Visiting a physiotherapist can help you live a more enjoyable life.
Applying the necessary use of hot or cold packs can help decrease pain and swelling, relieve spasms, and increase motion.
Where psoriatic arthritis is most commonly associated with those who have psoriasis, getting a hold on your daily skin routine is extremely important to decrease the amount of pain that occurs.
Nutrition is important for maintaining a healthy weight. Eating healthy and maintaining an appropriate weight will help take any extra stress off of your key joints.
An occupational therapist can analyze your day-to-day lifestyle (work and home) and give you tips on how to protect and distress your joints throughout your daily activities.
It is important to always consult with your physician or care team before starting a new exercise, diet or skin routine to ensure that they share any considerations they may have for your particular health situation and needs.
This initiative was supported by an educational grant from Pfizer