Psoriatic arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the joints and the connections between ligaments and bones, causing swelling, pain, and stiffness. Most people with the condition also have psoriasis symptoms, such as scales and plaques on the skin.
Psoriatic arthritis may affect several other areas of a person’s health and overall well-being. Many people with this condition need to work with a team of specialists to manage their skin symptoms, joint symptoms, heart health, and more.
In this article, we provide some information about each of the main healthcare providers that play a role in a psoriatic arthritis treatment team.
A rheumatologist is often, but not always, the primary provider treating psoriatic arthritis. These doctors specialize in disorders that affect the muscles, joints, and bones. They can help differentiate whether symptoms such as joint pain and stiffness are due to psoriatic arthritis or one of several other diseases.
A rheumatologist may also provide useful insight into the latest psoriatic arthritis treatments. The National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF) recommend that a person find a rheumatologist as soon as they experience the first symptoms of psoriatic arthritis. Early treatment can make a difference in slowing the progression of the disease and preventing damage to the joints.
An estimated 30% of people living with psoriasis develop psoriatic arthritis. A person who has already received a psoriasis diagnosis may first mention arthritis symptoms to their dermatologist. In fact,
A dermatologist may diagnose psoriatic arthritis by checking the person’s joints and examining their medical history. In some cases, they may also order tests to confirm the diagnosis.
People with both psoriatic arthritis and psoriasis should continue to work with their dermatologist to treat the skin symptoms, even if they are getting help from other doctors to manage the joint symptoms.
Sometimes a primary care provider can assess a person’s symptoms and make an initial psoriatic arthritis diagnosis. They will likely then refer the person to a specialist, such as a dermatologist or rheumatologist, for further analysis and treatment.
A primary care provider plays an important role in a person’s overall healthcare. The NPF suggest that regular visits to the primary care provider can help screen for and manage other conditions relating to psoriatic arthritis. These include:
- metabolic syndrome, which refers to a combination of risk factors for cardiovascular disease
- mental health concerns
- cardiovascular disease
Surgery is not typically the first-line treatment for psoriatic arthritis. However, in rare cases, it is necessary to repair a damaged ligament or replace a joint that has sustained severe damage as a result of psoriatic arthritis inflammation.
A person can discuss whether surgery is necessary with their primary care doctor, dermatologist, or rheumatologist.
However, the surgical procedure may involve an orthopedic surgeon, who will specialize in treating musculoskeletal disorders and injuries.
People living with psoriatic arthritis should see a cardiologist regularly to assess their risk of developing cardiovascular disease. It is also important to make lifestyle changes to reduce cardiovascular disease risk, such as:
- working with doctors to choose medications that support heart health
- following a psoriatic arthritis treatment plan
- staying active and getting regular exercise
- eating a heart-healthy diet low in sugars, salt, and saturated fat
- quitting smoking, if a smoker
Depending on a person’s particular needs, their healthcare team may involve other healthcare professionals, such as:
- Physical therapists: These professionals can teach a person special exercises and stretches that help with pain management and joint mobility.
- Occupational therapists: Occupational therapists provide customized treatment plans to enable people to perform daily activities and better manage their physical limitations and pain. Part of their work may include adapting a person’s environment or tasks to fit their needs.
- Chiropractors: These practitioners manually adjust the spine, muscles, and joints. They use special hands-on techniques to restore joint mobility, which may help improve joint function in addition to reducing pain.
The treatment team for a person with psoriatic arthritis often consists of several specialists. They may include a rheumatologist, dermatologist, primary care practitioner, cardiologist, and physical therapist, among others. A person should work with the various members of their team to address their specific symptoms and needs.
It is important that people with psoriatic arthritis find practitioners with whom they feel comfortable, even if these providers work at different healthcare facilities. The right team can help a person handle their own care and prevent disease progression.