Diagnosis of Psoriatic Arthritis
Although there is no definitive test for psoriatic arthritis, your doctor may do the following to diagnose you with the condition:
- Ask if you have a family history of psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis.
- Talk to you about your symptoms and give you a physical exam. Swollen and tender joints, psoriasis skin lesions, and nail changes are telltale signs.
- Examine your skin for signs of psoriasis, if you have never been diagnosed with the condition.
- Take a blood sample to check for other conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
- Order imaging tests such as x-rays, ultrasounds, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which can reveal changes in joints, entheses, or the spine.
Treatment of Psoriatic Arthritis
Treatment of psoriatic arthritis continues to improve, which can give many people relief from symptoms and improve their quality of life. Your treatment plan depends on the pattern of symptoms and their severity. You may need to try different medications to find one that works, or use a combination of them.
Milder forms of the disease may be treated by:
- Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory and pain medications, which can help treat pain and swelling.
- Injections of corticosteroids, strong inflammation-fighting drugs, into the affected joints. Because they are potent drugs, your doctor will prescribe the lowest dose possible to achieve the desired benefit.
More persistent or severe disease may be treated by:
- Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), oral therapies that suppress the immune system on a broad level and help to decrease signs and symptoms of the disease.
- Biologic response modifiers, which target specific immune messages and interrupt the signal, helping to decrease or stop inflammation and prevent future damage.
Who Treats Psoriatic Arthritis?
Health care providers who treat psoriatic arthritis include:
- Rheumatologists, who specialize in arthritis, including psoriatic arthritis, and other diseases of the bones, joints, and muscles.
- Dermatologists, who specialize in conditions of the skin, hair, and nails.
- Physiatrists (rehabilitation specialists) who supervise exercise programs.
- Occupational therapists, who teach ways to protect joints, lessen pain, perform activities of daily living, and conserve energy.
- Physical therapists, who help to improve joint function.
- Primary health care providers, including family doctors, internists, and pediatricians, who treat problems as they arise and coordinate care between the different specialized health care providers.
- Dietitians, who teach about nutrition and maintaining a healthy weight.
Living With Psoriatic Arthritis
Having psoriatic arthritis can affect your day-to-day life, but there are ways to lessen its impact. In addition to going to your doctor regularly, here are some things you can try to help manage your symptoms:
- If you smoke, work with your doctor to make a plan to quit. Some studies have shown that the more a person smokes, the worse the symptoms tend to be.
- Maintain a healthy weight. This will place less strain on your joints and may help you respond better to medications.
- Try different exercise programs and find the best one for you. Low-impact activities such as walking, cycling, swimming, yoga, or tai chi may be especially helpful. Talk with your doctor before starting any exercise program.
- Protect your joints, such as by pushing open a door with your whole body instead of just your fingers.
- Reach out for support to help cope with the emotional and mental effects of psoriatic arthritis. Consider joining a support group or seek counseling, which can help you learn more about coping and living with the disease.
Participating in your care can help build confidence in your ability to perform day-to-day activities, allowing you to lead a full, active, and independent life.