Psoriatic Arthritis: More Than Just Joint Pain

What could be worse that this awful joint pain and stiffness, you wonder as you try to will yourself out of bed. While the pain and fatigue that goes along with rheumatoid arthritis can be excruciating and is without a doubt a possibly debilitating condition, there is actually a form of arthritis that is worse. Psoriatic arthritis is a form of the disease that affects not only the joints, but also the skin, and possibly the tendons, eyes, spine, heart and lungs.

In most people who suffer from psoriatic arthritis, the first sign that something is wrong is the inflammation of the skin. Patients can develop psoriasis on their elbows, knees, scalp, and area around the navel and around the anus or genitals. Psoriasis causes red, raised areas of scaly skin. The signs of the skin disease are first seen in the forties or fifties and generally precede joint pain by several months to years. Once the joint pain starts, it generally involves the joints in the feet, ankles and knees. Inflammation can cause the joints to become red, hot and swollen. Often toes and fingers swell so badly they can resemble sausages. Psoriatic arthritis can also affect the spine.

In addition to skin inflammation and joint pain, psoriatic arthritis also attacks the ligaments and tendons of the body. One of the most common tendons to become affected it the Achilles tendon. This Achilles tendonitis causes the patient to have pain when walking and when climbing steps. Along with affecting the tendons in the heels, the arthritis can also inflame the chest wall and the cartilage that links the breast bone and ribs. This inflammation can cause chest pain and shortness of breath.

Along with the joints and tendons, psoriatic arthritis can also affect the major organs of the body such as the heart and lungs. The lungs can become inflamed causing both shortness of breath and chest pain, especially with deep breathing. If the heart becomes inflamed by the disease, the aortic valve can leak. This leak could result in breathing trouble as well as heart failure.

In its rampage on the body, psoriatic arthritis can also damage the eyes. Redness and itching are common results of the condition. The iris or colored area of the eye can also become painfully inflamed, especially when exposed to bright light. Often the only way to relieve this irisitis is to inject cortisone directly into the eye.

Psoriatic arthritis can often be difficult to diagnose especially in the early stages. One common symptom of this form of arthritis, however, is the pitting of finger or toe nails. Sometimes the disorder can cause the nails to turn loose and fall off completely.

Like rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis results from the body’s own immune system turning against itself. Unlike the rheumatoid variety, however, psoriatic arthritis can affect not only the joints, but also the skin, eyes and many of the major organs of the body. Left untreated this disease can progress until it become debilitating and sometimes even life threatening.