“The Heartbreak of Psoriasis” catch-phrase began in 1964 as magazine and TV ads, claiming the symptoms of burning, itching, pain and rash could be controlled by a certain over-the-counter medicinal cream. It is not contagious, but nearly 8 million people of all ages suffer from psoriasis in the United States and up to 40% of psoriasis patients develop psoriatic arthritis, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation.
Symptoms & Diagnosis
Men, women and children battling psoriasis are equally threatened by psoriatic arthritis, but few people are aware of the potential risk. Early symptoms of achy fingers or toes are easily overlooked.
Most often, later symptoms get the sufferer’s attention, sending him or her to seek medical counsel. These include: joint pain, stiffness and swelling especially in finger or toe joints – worse in morning and after rest; Stiffness improves with activity; Finger or toe nail issues such as indenting, ridging, lifting from nail bed, orange-yellow nail discoloration; and sausage digit – discussed in Lynn Pritchett’s AC-Yahoo! article:What is Sausage Digit.
Because there are many arthritis disorders with similar symptoms, including chronic back pain, diagnosis may take weeks or months, in a watch-and-document series of patient-doctor appointments. Tests may include blood work, x-ray, MRI and more. Patience and diligence are paramount in diagnosis and treatment.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), psoriatic arthritis can be disabling and severe, involving an entire hand or just affect one digit (finger). The National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF) says about 20% of people with this arthritis have at least five totally damaged joints. Everyday tasks like brushing teeth and combing hair can become impossible.
Treatment goals are to regain or maintain as much mobility and as little pain and stiffness as possible. Some patients achieve remission and others enjoy full recovery without any reoccurrence, while others remain disabled. The earlier treatment and more aggressive treatment, the better the patient’s chance of beating a psoriatic arthritis attack.
Combining drugs help promote some psoriatic arthritis healing. Pain and swelling may be helped by non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin, naproxen-sodium and ibuprophen, either prescription or over-the-counter.
For severe joint swelling, stiffness and pain, disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) like methotrexate, cyclosporine and sulfasalazine can be prescribed. But these drugs can have severe side effects, so regular blood tests are necessary. Methotrexate and cyclosporine can help psoriasis too.
Along with NSAIDs and DMARDs, there is a new class of biologic drugs proving useful in moving toward remission and recovery for psoriatic arthritis and other types of arthritic diseases. Going by brand names Humira, Enbrel and Remicade these drugs are given by injection at home or by intravenous administration in the doctor’s office, according to specific drug manufacturer instructions.
Old school arthritis treatment once relied heavily on steroids to treat inflammation. Because of long term effects, long term steroid prescriptions for arthritis are not common today, according to Dr. Eric Gall, Interim Director of the Arizona Arthritis Research Center, Tucson, Arizona.
Drugs are just part of the treatment. Targeted joint and tendon exercise, massage and eating a diet rich in colorful fruits, vegetables and nuts go a long way toward remission and recovery. Obesity complicates psoriatic arthritis, as it does many disorders. Surgery may be required for badly damaged joints, but most psoriatic arthritis patients do not need it.
The Bottom Line
“The heartbreak of psoriasis” can mean much more than an itchy, painful rash. It can lead to disabled finger and toe joints, as well as severe neck and back pain. Even a child is not too young to be diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis.Treatments for autoimmune disorders, including psoriatic arthritis, are improving quality and length of life for many patients.
The intent of this article is to provide information to better understand health and diagnosed disorders. It is not the intention of Lynn Pritchett to provide specific medical advice Specific medical advice will not be provided. Lynn Pritchett and Associated Content from Yahoo! urge readers to consult with a qualified physician for diagnosis and for answers to medical questions.