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Psoriatic Arthritis: Understanding the Underlying Causes

The health of our skin and bones are often closely related. Indeed, a condition that affects your skin might cause problems with your bones, and vice versa. Psoriatic arthritis, for instance, is a type of inflammatory arthritis that is more common in those with psoriasis, a condition that leads to red, itchy, scaly skin.

Psoriatic arthritis symptoms primarily include joint pain, stiffness, and swelling, but the inflamed, itchy skin associated with psoriasis is also common. While the two conditions are not inextricably linked, they do share the same underlying causes or contributing factors. Let’s explore what causes psoriatic arthritis, and what can be done to treat it.

What Is the Root Cause of Psoriatic Arthritis?

As of now, doctors still can’t determine the underlying cause of psoriatic arthritis. However, a weakened or malfunctioning immune system can allow the disease to occur. An abnormal immune response may cause your body to attack its own healthy cells, which in turn can lead to inflammation in the joints and the skin.

Despite not knowing exactly why the immune system would act this way, researchers can point to a number of factors that can contribute to the development of psoriatic arthritis.

Factors that May Lead to Psoriatic Arthritis

As is the case with many diseases with mysterious causes, doctors believe that the main culprits of psoriatic arthritis are genetics and specific environmental factors.

A large proportion of those with the disease come from families with a history of psoriasis, arthritis, or both. While research is ongoing, some doctors think that proteins known as human leukocyte antigens (HLAs), the amount of which are determined by one’s genetics, are more abundant in those with psoriatic arthritis.

Additionally, certain infections or physical trauma may also bring about psoriatic arthritis and/or psoriasis symptoms in those who are more genetically inclined to develop these conditions. It also seems that one’s age plays a role. People between the ages of 30 and 50 are most susceptible to developing psoriatic arthritis.

What Can You Do About Psoriatic Arthritis?

Neither psoriasis nor psoriatic arthritis can be cured by current means. These chronic conditions can only be treated in order to alleviate symptoms. Fortunately, there are several psoriatic arthritis treatment options available, encompassing medications, physical therapies, and surgeries.

Medications include:

  • Immunosuppressants to reduce abnormal immune responses
  • Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), which can protect joints and tissue from permanent damage by impeding the disease’s’ progression
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to alleviate pain and swelling, such as ibuprofen or naproxen sodium
  • Biologic response modifiers, a classification of DMARD that only targets certain parts of the immune system

In addition to the above medications, severe psoriatic arthritis can be removed via joint replacement surgery, where the damaged joints are replaced by synthetic prosthetics. Patients might also receive direct steroid injections to rapidly relieve inflammation. Certain physical therapies and massage treatments can also reduce pain associated with psoriatic arthritis.

As doctors and dermatologists continue to study psoriatic arthritis, we can only hope that its underlying cause(s) will be discovered. Then, perhaps there will be a cure. Until then, the more you know about this condition and the various ways to treat it, the better equipped you’ll be to mitigate its symptoms when they occur.

Southeast Dermatology Specialists have the resources and experience to help you understand and take care of your psoriatic arthritis. Contact us to ask us questions and learn more about our services and providers.

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