Detecting Psoriatic Arthritis Early: First Signs and Treatment Options

Psoriatic arthritis is a chronic type of arthritis that occurs in people who have psoriasis, a skin condition characterized by red, scaly patches. Early detection is crucial for preventing permanent joint damage and improving long-term outcomes. Start a search today for the first signs of psoriatic arthritis and available treatments.

What is Psoriatic Arthritis?

Psoriatic arthritis is caused by inflammation of the joints and surrounding structures due to the immune system’s response. About one-third of people with psoriasis develop psoriatic arthritis, warns WebMD, and the symptoms can range from mild to severe, worsening slowly or quickly. Although it can occur at any age, it is more commonly found in people aged 30 to 50.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for psoriatic arthritis, but early detection is crucial in developing a treatment plan that can help slow the spread of the disease, ease pain, and prevent permanent damage to joints and loss of mobility. According to WebMD, it is also common for the disease to run in families, so if you have a family history of psoriatic arthritis or psoriasis, keep an eye out for symptoms.

First Signs of Psoriatic Arthritis

Joint pain, stiffness, and swelling are usually the initial signs of psoriatic arthritis. The Mayo Clinic says these symptoms can happen before or together with skin patches. Joint problems can also affect any part of the body, including the spine and fingertips.

The symptoms of psoriatic arthritis differ among patients, and as stated by the Cleveland Clinic, some experience gradual and subtle symptoms, while others have sudden and dramatic symptoms. The symptoms can vary from mild, affecting only one joint, to severe, affecting multiple joints. Additionally, not all patients experience the same symptoms.

Most Common Symptoms

The most common symptoms of psoriatic arthritis are joint pain, tenderness, and swelling in one or more joints, particularly in the hands, feet, wrists, ankles, and knees, reports the Cleveland Clinic. Joint stiffness is often most noticeable in the morning or after prolonged activity, and reduced range of motion can occur in affected joints.

Other symptoms listed by the source are lower back pain or stiffness, tenderness, pain, or swelling where tendons and ligaments connect to the bone (enthesitis), and dactylitis, which is characterized by swelling of an entire finger or toe with a sausage-like appearance.

Skin symptoms may also accompany psoriatic arthritis, such as silvery or gray scaly spots on the scalp, elbows, knees, and/or lower spine, small raised and sometimes scaly round spots called papules on the arms, legs, and torso, pitting of the nails, and detachment or lifting of fingernails or toenails. Additional symptoms can include inflammation of the eye (iritis or uveitis), fatigue, and anemia.

Detecting Psoriatic Arthritis Early

When it comes to diagnosing psoriatic arthritis, having accompanying psoriasis symptoms can make the process easier. However, Johns Hopkins Medicine warns that diagnosis can be challenging when there are no skin symptoms. Healthcare providers usually start by taking a detailed medical history and conducting a physical examination to inquire about the patient’s symptoms.

Additionally, blood tests may be ordered to check for an elevated erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR or sed rate) that indicates inflammation, notes the source. Imaging tests such as X-rays, CT scans, ultrasound, MRI, and skin biopsies may also be used to help with the diagnosis, but uric acid levels are not useful for diagnosis or monitoring.

Most Effective Treatment Options

Although psoriatic arthritis has no cure, there are various treatment options available to alleviate symptoms and delay the progression of the disease. The Mayo Clinic recommends disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) to prevent permanent damage to joints and tissues.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), physical and occupational therapies, and massage therapy may also be recommended for milder cases. However, more severe cases may require joint injections or replacement surgery, warns the source.

Two biologic drugs, Taltz and Risankizumab (Skyrizi), are available to target the inflammation associated with psoas and psoriatic arthritis, with clinical studies showing significant improvement after 24 weeks of treatment. Nevertheless, finding an effective treatment requires patience as it may take some trial and error, and several months to see the full benefits.