Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis are both chronic, autoimmune conditions that cause the body to attack healthy cells and tissue. Psoriasis is a chronic, auto-immune condition that affects the skin. With this condition, the life cycle of the skin cell is sped up and skin cells reproduce too rapidly, causing a build-up of cells. This results in red scaly patches of skin that can be painful. Psoriatic Arthritis (PsA) is a chronic arthritis condition that can cause stiff and swollen joints, it can present asymmetrically and progress to the tendons, nails, and even the eyes. Both conditions have symptoms that often ebb and flow, with “flare-ups” and periods of spontaneous remission being common. Although some people with psoriasis go on to develop psoriatic arthritis, not everyone who has psoriatic arthritis also has psoriasis.
Signs and Symptoms
With the increased cell turnover of psoriasis and subsequent build-up of skin cells, people with psoriasis can experience the following symptoms:
- Red patches of skin, covered in silvery scales
- Dry cracked skin that may bleed
- Itching, burning, or soreness of the affected areas
- Small areas of the body may be affected, or the condition can be more widespread
Psoriatic Arthritis occurs when your body’s immune system begins to attack healthy cells and tissues associated with joints, resulting in inflammation, often resulting in the following symptoms:
- Stiff, swollen and painful joints
- Swollen fingers and toes
- Foot pain (specifically at the point where ligaments attach to the bone)
- Lower back pain
The diagnosis of psoriasis is typically strait-forward and can usually be done during a doctor’s examination of the skin, scalp, and nails, combined with a thorough medical history. In some cases, a biopsy may be done to determine which type of psoriasis is present.
Diagnosing psoriatic arthritis is a bit more involved, with x-rays, MRI, CT scans, and ultrasounds being utilized to examine the affected joints in detail, along with blood tests to rule out other forms of arthritis. Skin and nail changes are also assessed.
The goal of treatment of psoriasis is to reduce inflammation, slow the rate of cell turnover, and clear the skin. There are three main approaches to treatment
- Topical treatments
- Light therapy
- Systemic medications (these include biologics).
Treatment for psoriatic arthritis varies depending on severity, ranging from intermittent use of NSAIDs (or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) to reduce inflammation to anti-rheumatic medications, or some of the same biologics that are used to treat psoriasis.