If You Have Psoriasis, You May Be At Risk Of Psoriatic Arthritis

A rheumatologist casts light on recognising and managing the symptoms of this debilitating disease.

Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is a form of chronic arthritis that affects some patients of psoriasis – a condition causing red patches of skin to develop, covered with silvery-white build-up of skin cells. The exact prevalence of PsA is unknown, but it is estimated to vary from 0.3% to 1 % of the population.

Although the disease is less common and thus, not widely discussed, Associate Professor Dr Sargunan Sockalingam, a consultant rheumatologist at University Malaya Medical Centre opines that more people should know about PsA and understand the struggles the PsA patients have to go through every day.

Since it is an autoimmune disease, the flares-up for PsA often happen unpredictably. In most cases, people develop psoriasis first, with PsA mostly appearing between the ages of 30 and 50. As it is a genetic condition, those with a family history of it are at higher risk.

PsA can cause inflammation in the joints that will affect and disrupt daily life. The everyday tasks we take for granted, such as buttoning or zipping up clothes and lifting heavy objects, becomes a painful challenge.

Symptoms & Effects of Psoriatic Arthritis

Some of the common signs are lower back pain; fatigue; nail pitting; swollen, stiff joints; and dactylitis (swelling of the fingers and toes). The symptoms do subside over time, which is known as ‘remission’, and when they worsen again, it’s known as a ‘flare-up’.

“There is currently no cure for PsA. However, there are treatments available to help control the symptoms. If PsA is left untreated, the inflammation may cause permanent damage to the joints and tissues, which can lead to disability,” says the rheumatologist. During a flare-up, patients typically will have limited mobility and suffer from excruciating pain.

Frustration from failing to accomplish simple tasks, and the judgement from society due to having a debilitating condition, often also results in anxiety and depression.

Dr Sargunan suggests seeking professional help in the early stages, as early diagnosis and immediate treatment is important in preventing the permanent loss of joint function.