Autoimmune disorders can be difficult to diagnose, especially in the earlier stages, and psoriatic arthritis is no different. Because there is no definitive blood test that can identify this form of arthritis and the similarities in symptoms it shares with rheumatoid arthritis, diagnosing can be tricky.
Research suggests that more than half of people with psoriatic arthritis must wait at least two years for a diagnosis, so it can be helpful to recognize the symptoms early on. Keep reading to learn about the early signs of psoriatic arthritis and how to find someone who can help provide you some relief.
What is psoriatic arthritis?
“Psoriatic arthritis is a type of inflammatory arthritis that affects some patients who have the skin condition psoriasis,” said Edwin Aquino, MD, a rheumatologist with Banner – University Medical Center Tucson. “Studies suggest that some people may be genetically predisposed to getting it as well.”
While one-third of people who have psoriasis get psoriatic arthritis, many more develop it without having psoriasis. Psoriatic arthritis can start at any age, but it generally starts between the ages of 30 and 50. There’s no cure for psoriatic arthritis, that’s why it’s important to discover it early on. Left untreated, it can cause permanent joint damage.
Six symptoms you shouldn’t ignore
The symptoms of psoriatic arthritis can vary in severity, from person to person and can even come and go (i.e., flare-ups and remission). Here are six symptoms you should watch out for.
1. It’s hard to move in the morning
Psoriatic arthritis can make getting up in the morning a challenge, especially after you haven’t moved around for a while. It can cause stiffness and pain in one or more joints, from your toes to your fingers. It can even cause pain and swelling in the tendons and surrounding structures that connect to your bone, a condition called enthesitis.
2. Your fingers look like warm sausages
“About 30 to 50% of patients with psoriatic arthritis will experience the symptoms of dactylitis, or extreme swelling in their fingers and toes,” Dr. Aquino said. “This is when the entire fingers and toes swell to resemble sausages.”
You may notice your swollen joints feel warm to the touch because inflammation and swelling cause heat.
3. You have lower back pain
When you think of psoriatic arthritis, you typically think about skin symptoms, but many people experience lower back pain as well. “About 20% of those with psoriatic arthritis will develop a subtype called spinal involvement or psoriatic spondylitis, which may result in pain and stiffness in the back and hips,” Dr. Aquino said.
4. Your nails have grooves and ridges
“Up to 80% of patients will notice changes to their fingernails and toenails,” Dr. Aquino said. You may notice small holes, ridges, lines or color changes. In some instances, your nails may start to separate from the nail beds and even fall off.
5. You experience eye problems
The inflammation caused by psoriatic arthritis can cause swelling and irritation in the colored ring around the eye (iritis). Symptoms include pain and redness in the eyes, conjunctivitis, eye floaters and blurred vision. Without appropriate treatment, it can lead to vision loss.
6. You’re always tired
About half of people with psoriatic arthritis feel exhausted, unmotivated and just too tired to move. This is caused by the inflammation that comes with psoriatic arthritis.
Treatments for psoriatic arthritis
If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms above and have psoriasis, seek help from your health care provider to consider a possible evaluation with a rheumatologist. If you treat your psoriatic arthritis early, it can help you avoid further joint pain and damage, and can improve your quality of life.
To find a Banner Health specialist near you, visit bannerhealth.com.
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