When one thinks of psoriasis (so-REYE-uh-sis), one thinks of a skin disease in which scaly and red rashes can affect the skin. However, 5-20% of people with psoriasis also will have arthritis because of inflammation in the joints. Joints in the hands, feet, spine, and jaw can be affected.
Like joints affected by rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic joints can be stiff, painful, reddish, or appear swollen. Unlike rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis affects men and women equally, usually appears in the "PIP" and "DIP" joints in the fingers (rather than the "knuckles" where the fingers come from the hand), and might only occur on one hand.
The arthritis can look like other kinds of arthritis but also can be accompanied by ridges in the fingernail. Of course, the skin lesions of psoriasis also are associated.
Psoriatic arthritis can run in families, so your doctor might ask you if any family members have this. Exam and X-rays can be very helpful; there are certain findings on X-rays that are found more commonly in patients with this type of arthritis. Your doctor might order blood tests to further characterize the arthritis.
Treatment of psoriatic arthritis--like most arthritis--is aimed at improving function, decreasing inflammation, and managing pain. Hand therapy can be useful to teach you how to protect your joints and to help improve your ability to do daily tasks. Medical treatment often is managed by rheumatologists. Surgical options such as joint replacement or joint fusion should be discussed with your hand surgeon.
For more information about resources available for those with arthritis, contact the Arthritis Foundation.
Please join us at the next Walk to Cure Arthritis at the Detroit Zoo!