When a person with psoriatic arthritis (PsA) has symptoms, they likely have active PsA. Symptoms may include swelling, pain, and lack of mobility in their joints.
PsA is a chronic illness associated with psoriasis, a skin condition that causes scaly, irritated skin plaques.
For some people, symptoms appear as flares that improve and then come back. Others experience continuous symptoms.
Treatment can ease symptoms of active PsA, but there is no cure. Seeking treatment as soon as symptoms occur may produce faster improvements.
Read on to learn more about active psoriatic arthritis.
Psoriasis is an
Most people first notice symptoms in the hands and feet. Symptoms may include swollen hands and fingers that may look sausage-shaped. However, PsA can affect any joint, and some people develop widespread joint pain.
Psoriasis and PsA are chronic conditions. This means that a person has psoriatic arthritis even if treatment has eliminated their symptoms.
Active PsA means a person has symptoms that may be significant enough to cause pain or affect daily life.
PsA and active PsA are the same.
- painful joints, especially in the hands and feet
- swollen joints
- dactylitis, which is inflammation and swelling of the fingers and toes
- symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), such as stomach pain or digestive issues
- skin symptoms, such as plaques or scaly spots
- nail psoriasis symptoms, such as pitting or peeling nails
To receive a diagnosis of active PsA, a person only needs to have psoriasis and joint symptoms. They do not need to have all symptoms, and they may not have symptoms at present.
Some people have symptoms all the time. However, for others, symptoms come and go. These symptoms may develop in response to certain triggers.
A person with psoriasis who also has joint pain and swollen fingers probably has PsA.
Bloodwork to measure the ESR (erythrocyte sedimentation rate) and CRP (C-reactive protein) levels may help since PsA often leads to raised levels of these. However, a lack of elevation does not rule out PsA. A doctor may also order imaging scans of the joints to look for joint damage and swelling.
To manage symptoms, a doctor may recommend the following:
- physical therapy to improve mobility
- occupational therapy to help a person work around their pain
- pain relief medication, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
To slow the progression of the disease and increase the chances of remission, doctors usually prescribe disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs). These target the inflammation and disease process to reverse PsA or slow its progression.
Treatment in the early stages of symptom progression may improve outcomes, so a person should seek medical care as soon as they notice symptoms.
Some people notice that certain triggers cause PsA to flare up. For example, stress or infections may worsen or cause new symptoms. Identifying these triggers can help a person reduce their exposure to them and better control the disease.
A person should contact a doctor if:
- PsA symptoms do not improve with treatment.
- The treatment causes unpleasant side effects that do not go away.
- A person develops symptoms of psoriasis for the first time.
- A person develops joint pain.
- A person has questions about treatment options or symptom management.
Active PsA means that a person is currently experiencing symptoms.
The first line of treatment works well for many people, but others may need to try several treatments to get results. A rheumatologist can work with a person to develop a personalized treatment plan that manages symptoms and slows the progression of the disease.
Because PsA symptoms