Psoriatic Arthritis Treatment Guide

Your Guide to Psoriatic Arthritis Symptoms and Management at Summit Rheumatology 

Topic Guide

What is Psoriatic Arthritis? 

Psoriatic Arthritis Symptoms

Psoriatic Arthritis Causes

Psoriatic Arthritis Diagnosis

Psoriatic Arthritis Medications

Diet for Psoriatic Arthritis

What is Psoriatic Arthritis? 

Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in the joints and skin. It occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissues, leading to joint pain, stiffness, and swelling. PsA often affects individuals with psoriasis, a condition marked by red, scaly skin patches. The exact cause of PsA is unknown, but it likely involves a combination of genetic, environmental, and immune system factors. 

Psoriatic arthritis is a type of inflammatory arthritis. This is different from mechanical arthritis that’s caused by the breakdown of cartilage around the joints. Inflammatory arthritis is triggered by your body’s immune system. Types of inflammatory arthritis include: 

Different types of inflammatory arthritis can share many of the same symptoms. It’s important to consult with a rheumatologist or arthritis specialist if you suspect you may have a form of arthritis. Psoriatic arthritis treatment requires a diagnosis before starting certain medications. 

psoriatic arthritis in hands

Psoriatic Arthritis Symptoms 

The symptoms of PsA can vary widely among individuals. Some may notice psoriasis symptoms before psoriatic arthritis symptoms occur. Other times, an individual may be diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis without an existing psoriasis diagnosis. 

Common psoriatic arthritis symptoms include: 

  • Joint Pain and Swelling: PsA often causes pain, swelling, and tenderness in the joints, particularly in the fingers, toes, knees, and lower back. 
  • Skin Changes: Red, scaly patches of skin, known as plaques, are a hallmark of psoriasis and often accompany PsA. 
  • Nail Changes: PsA can cause pitting, thickening, or separation of the nails from the nail bed. 
  • Fatigue: Chronic inflammation can lead to significant fatigue and reduced energy levels. 
  • Morning Stiffness: Many individuals with PsA experience stiffness in the morning or after periods of inactivity. 
  • Enthesitis: Inflammation where tendons and ligaments attach to bones, commonly affecting the Achilles tendon or the bottom of the foot. 
  • Dactylitis: Swelling of an entire finger or toe, giving it a sausage-like appearance. 

What Causes Psoriatic Arthritis? 

Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) develops when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissues, causing inflammation in the joints and skin. While the exact cause of PsA is not fully understood, it is believed that genetic factors, environmental triggers, and immune system abnormalities all play a role. 

Is Psoriatic Arthritis Genetic? 

Research has shown a strong genetic component to psoriatic arthritis. Individuals with a family history of PsA or psoriasis are at a higher risk of developing the condition. Studies suggest that several genes associated with the immune system may be involved in the development of PsA. However, carrying these genetic predispositions does not guarantee that an individual will develop the disease. 

Environmental Triggers 

Certain environmental factors may trigger the onset of PsA in some individuals. These triggers can vary widely but may include: 

  • Infections: Bacterial or viral infections can activate the immune system, potentially leading to the development of PsA. 
  • Stress: High levels of stress can impact the immune system, increasing the risk of PsA symptoms. 
  • Lifestyle Factors: Smoking, obesity, and an unhealthy diet may contribute to the development and progression of PsA. 
psoriatic arthritis and stress

Diagnosing Psoriatic Arthritis 

Diagnosing PsA can be challenging because its symptoms often resemble those of other autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis. There is no single test for PsA; instead, a rheumatologist or PsA specialist may conduct a physical examination and order a variety of tests to form a diagnosis. 

Psoriatic Arthritis Tests 

A rheumatologist will conduct a physical examination to look for signs of PsA, such as joint tenderness, swelling, redness, skin plaques, or nail pitting. Additional tests may include: 

  • Blood Tests: To measure inflammatory markers and rule out other conditions. 
  • Imaging: X-rays, ultrasounds, CT scans, or MRIs to visualize joint damage or inflammation. 
  • Skin Biopsies: To rule out other causes of flaky, inflamed skin. 

Your specialist will also ask about your family history, as having a family member with PsA or psoriasis increases your risk. 

Psoriatic Arthritis Treatment

Psoriatic arthritis treatment aims to reduce inflammation, manage symptoms, and prevent joint damage. A comprehensive treatment plan often includes medications and lifestyle changes. 

Psoriatic Arthritis Medications 

  • Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs): Medications like ibuprofen and naproxen help reduce pain and inflammation. 
  • Disease-Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs (DMARDs): Methotrexate and sulfasalazine can slow disease progression. 
  • Biologics: Medications like adalimumab (Humira) and etanercept (Enbrel) target specific parts of the immune system to reduce inflammation. 
  • Corticosteroids: Short-term use of corticosteroids can help control severe inflammation. 

Anti-Inflammatory Diet for Psoriatic Arthritis 

Diet may play a role in psoriatic arthritis treatment. An anti-inflammatory diet can help reduce flare-ups and improve overall health. Your rheumatologist may suggest increasing your consumption of certain foods: 

  • Fruits and Vegetables: Rich in antioxidants, these foods help reduce inflammation. 
  • Lean Proteins: Fish, chicken, and plant-based proteins provide essential nutrients without promoting inflammation. 
  • Healthy Fats: Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts can help reduce inflammation. 

Foods to avoid include: 

  • Processed Foods: These often contain unhealthy fats and sugars that can increase inflammation. 
  • Sugary Drinks and Snacks: High sugar intake is linked to increased inflammation. 
  • Red Meat: High in saturated fats, red meat can promote inflammation. 

If you are experiencing symptoms of psoriatic arthritis or need a specialist, Summit Rheumatology is accepting new patients. Contact our Arizona or Oklahoma rheumatologists to schedule. 

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