Most people have heard of psoriasis – that chronic skin condition that results in red splotches and white scaly patches. Psoriatic arthritis is less known. In my article “Is It Psoriatic Arthritis?” I first wrote about this condition, and talked about Pro Golfer Phil Mickelson, who has courageously come forward to head a public awareness campaign about the disease that afflicts even this great athlete.
Since Mickelson started his education program last March, you may have seen him in magazine articles and on TV spots, talking about psoriatic arthritis. However, even with this push by a public figure, psoriatic arthritis remains a mystery to most people.
The condition is more common than people realize, and for this reason I am posting a 3-part series where we’ll get a good look at psoriatic arthritis, its causes, risk factors, and how people who suffer from it cope.
While the actual cause of psoriatic arthritis is still obscure, what is known is that it is related to psoriasis, an auto-immune disease. As the immune system attacks the body, causing the obvious skin condition, 30% of psoriasis suffers also their have joints and ligaments involved.
Unfortunately many of the symptoms mimic other conditions or arthritis types – there are over 100 different types of arthritis and other joint diseases – so psoriatic arthritis can be missed or misdiagnosed. “The most important thing for these patients is early recognition, diagnosis, and treatment of the disease,” says Elaine Husni, MD, vice chair of the Department of Rheumatic and Immunologic Diseases at the Cleveland Clinic.
The pre-existing condition of psoriasis is the main risk factor for prosiasitic arthritis. So, if you already have psoriasis, you need to be aware of other risk factors, including:
- Age and gender. Psoriatic arthritis can show up at any age (even in children), but it appears most frequently between 30 and 50. Most statistics show that men are more likely to have psoriatic arthritis, mainly because the skin condition psoriasis shows up more in men. However, when considering just the people who already have psoriasis the gender differential is about equal.
- Stress. Undo stress can cause flare-ups in adverse autoimmune responses in the body, possibly pushing it over the top, from the skin disease to arthritis.
- Obesity. Carrying too much weight puts added stress and strain on your joints, and can cause any number of the different arthritic conditions. Studies are now also indicating that fat tissue may promote more circulating cytokines, the cell-signaling molecules linked to inflammation.
In Part 2 of this series we’ll look at symptoms that can be indicators that a person who has psoriasis is heading toward psoriatic arthritis. Knowing these indicators can help with the critical early diagnosis.
Meanwhile, remember that with any arthritic condition, using the scientifically-designed ergonomic UGLee Pen when doing any kind of handwriting, is one way of helping cope with activities of daily living.