Psoriatic arthritis is characterized by an inflammation of the skin and a corresponding inflammation of the joints. The skin condition normally precedes inflammation of the joints. Together, this is termed as psoriatic arthritis. About 1 in 10 people who develop psoriasis also develop psoriatic arthritis.
Psoriasis is seen as patchy, red and inflamed skin with the appearance of scales on the skin. The arthritis causes inflammation of the joints, which may appear much later, possibly after a few decades. A case history of the patient revealing psoriasis helps the doctor to form an accurate diagnosis of psoriatic arthritis. Psoriatic arthritis typically affects the spine and causes inflammation of the spine.
Causes of Psoriatic Arthritis
Psoriatic arthritis is caused by a combination of genetic, immunological and environmental factors. It is seen that people with compromised immunities like AIDS patients are more likely to suffer from psoriatic arthritis, as they do not have the T helper cells that wards off certain diseases.
The presence of some abnormal carrier genes may also lead to the development of psoriatic arthritis. Certain skin infections and pathogens in the environment may also precipitate an attack.
Symptoms of Psoriatic Arthritis
It has been seen that patients typically show symptoms of psoriasis or the skin disease. This is followed by psoriatic arthritis a few decades later. The joints involved are ankles, knees and spine, which get inflamed and swollen. The joints become swollen, hot and painful and the pain can often get excruciating and unbearable. Inflammation of the spine can cause soreness and stiffness of the back. All of these can create difficulties in walking.
Treatment for Psoriatic Arthritis
The use of painkillers like non-specific anti-inflammatory drugs is common. These are given to the patient to help alleviate inflammation and pain. In very severe cases, the medicines do not work and the patient may have to be given powerful drugs like corticosteroids and anti-malarial drugs.
Exercise and physiotherapy is the next course of action. Prolonged physiotherapy on a regular basis is said to help patients suffering from psoriatic arthritis. This includes specific exercises done for the joints. Specialized programmes are developed for such patients. Hot baths and saunas may also be recommended as deemed fit.
At home, the patient will have to do some stretching exercises along with the application of hot and cold packs to help reduce the inflammation. In fact, the sooner these exercises are conducted, the slower is the progress of the disease. In general, patients are encouraged to keep fit.
Anti Inflammatory Drugs
Certain anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin and diclofenac are also used to reduce muscle stiffness and pain.
Surgery is done in very rare and exceptional cases involving total destruction and degeneration of the joints. In this, knee replacement or hip replacement surgery may have to be carried out to restore some degree of normalcy in the patient’s life.
Generally, doctors encourage patients to remain proactive, alert to their symptoms, and prevent the disease from advancing to this extent.
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