Early detection and diagnosis of psoriatic arthritis is crucial for preventing permanent joint damage and other complications. Fortunately, you can start a search right now to learn about the first signs of PsA, and what treatments are available to manage symptoms and slow down the progression of the disease.
Joint Pain, Stiffness, Swelling, or Warmth
One of the first signs of psoriatic arthritis is pain, tenderness, and stiffness in the joints. These symptoms may affect one or more joints with the most common areas being the knees, fingers, toes, ankles, and lower back, according to Healthline. The symptoms of pain and stiffness may disappear and reappear over time. Symptoms-free periods are known as remission and symptom-worsening periods are called flare-ups.
The joints in the feet, ankles, knees, hips, wrists, and other parts of the body connect the bones and are cushioned by soft tissues. Inflammation can cause fluid accumulation in these tissues, leading to swelling, explains the source. Joint swelling may also cause pain, stiffness, and the digits’ irregular shape in chronic cases. The warmth is because inflamed tissue produces heat, making the joints feel warm to the touch.
Foot, Elbow and Lower Back Pain
Spondylitis, a condition where inflammation affects the joints between the vertebrae, and inflammation of the sacroiliac joint are common problems for around 20-percent of people with psoriatic arthritis, says WebMD. In severe cases, these conditions may lead to joint fusion.
The Achilles tendon and the bottom of the foot are two of the most common areas affected by foot pain caused by psoriatic arthritis, adds the source. Elbow pain can also occur, which may feel similar to tennis elbow, with pain extending from the outside of the elbow to the forearm and wrist.
Nail changes are a prevalent issue in people with psoriatic arthritis, with an occurrence rate of 80 to 90-percent as compared to 10 to 55-percent in individuals with psoriasis who don’t have arthritis, according to Medical News Today.
Pits are one of the significant symptoms of psoriatic arthritis that show shallow depressions in the nail plate, visible beside smoother areas of the nail. These pits indicate past episodes of symptom flare-ups, adds the source. Ridged nails may also be an early sign of joint disease that sometimes appears years before the onset of arthritic symptoms, making it important to consult a doctor regarding any nail changes.
Onycholysis, another nail-related symptom, is when the nail plate separates from the nail bed, also known as nail psoriasis. It typically appears with other nail symptoms, like pitting or ridges, and doesn’t cause pain. The nail’s color may change to yellow, white, or purple as it peels from the nail bed.
The inflammation from psoriatic arthritis can affect the eyes, causing redness, itchiness, dryness, blurred vision, pain, and sensitivity to light. Inflammation can also cause floaters, explains Healthline, which are specks or lines in the field of vision. If new or large floaters appear, accompanied by flashing lights, it may indicate a medical emergency, and immediate treatment is necessary.
Uveitis is another common eye condition that affects between 7 and 25-percent of people with psoriatic arthritis, says Healthline. It is characterized by inflammation of the uvea, the middle layer of the eye. Symptoms of uveitis include eye pain, redness, lid swelling, blurry vision, sensitivity to light, and changes in the conjunctival vessels or hyperemia, adds the source.
Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial to prevent complications and permanent vision loss. Healthline advises seeking treatment through oral medication or eye drops to reduce inflammation and pain.
Treatment for Psoriatic Arthritis
Although there is currently no cure for psoriatic arthritis, treatment options exist to manage symptoms and slow disease progression. According to the Mayo Clinic, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are often prescribed to prevent permanent damage to joints and tissues.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) physical and occupational therapies, and massage therapy may be recommended for milder cases, while joint injections or replacement surgery may be necessary for severe cases.
Recently, two biologic drugs, Risankizumab (Skyrizi) and Taltz, have been developed to target inflammation in psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. Clinical studies have shown significant improvement after 24 weeks of treatment. However, finding an effective treatment may require trial and error, and it may take several months to see the full benefits.