Psoriatic Arthritis​

Psoriatic arthritis is the inflammation and stiffness of the joints experienced by people having psoriasis.

Psoriasis is a lifelong disease of the skin and nails, which causes red patches, coated with silvery scales, on your skin, and pits on the fingernails. Although primarily a skin disease, its autoimmune (when your defense system attacks your own body parts) nature often affects your joints too. Joint inflammation (chemical reaction to irritation/attack) usually occurs after skin lesions, but in a lesser majority of affected individuals, arthritis can crop up before any skin manifestations occur. Psoriasis is not contagious and cannot be transferred by touching the red scaly patches.

Often emerging in adults between the ages of thirty and fifty years, this disease can occur amongst males and females equally. Having pre-existing psoriasis of skin is the greatest risk factor for joint ailment. A family history of the same disorder also creates a higher predisposition. ​​

If you believe you may be suffering from psoriatic arthritis, you may notice that the diseased joints will be typically swollen, warm and painful. However, since this is a progressive disease it generally gets worse over time. Your complaints may come and go intermittently causing acute flare ups followed by periods of relaxation. 

You may notice some specific presentations of psoriatic arthritis including:

  • Sausage shaped swelling of fingers and toes, with pain

  • Low back pain, extending to the joints of spine or the point of attachment to spine to pelvis 

  • Pain at the back of your heel or sole of foot​​

Always get a medical consult if you already have psoriasis and start experiencing joint symptoms. The faculty at the Musculoskeletal and Sports Medicine Service Line can provide you professional medical advice and help you cope with the symptoms.

You can also consult the Family Health Services for continuous screenings or a preliminary examination.​

Your time with your doctor maybe limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here are some tips to help get ​you started.​

A physical examination is an important first step in assessment of the disease. If you were previously diagnosed with psoriasis, the joint complaints can easily be related. On the other hand, if joint inflammation precedes the skin lesions, it is imperative to rule out other similar disorders. In order to diagnose the disease you may have to undergo additional testing as per your doctor’s findings. These may include:

  • Blood tests: to check for a specific chemical called rheumatoid factor, ESR, haemoglobin and uric acid levels

  • Analysis of sample fluid from affected joint

  • X-ray or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) imaging to visualize damage to bones​

In the attempts to treat psoriatic arthritis, you will be given a number of treatment options to choose from. The arthritic component can be managed well with:

  • Medications including: 

    • Pain killers for pain 

    • DMARDS (Disease Modifying Anti-rheumatic Drugs), which slow down the destructive process in joints 

    • Biologic agents to control your defense system and reduce inflammation

    • Calcium and vitamin D supplements

  • Practical options: physical therapy, heat and cold therapy, splints, exercise and occupational therapy 

  • Steroid injections into joints

  • Joint replacement surgery for severe damage (takes years to reach such severity)​

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.

 The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the 'Important Numbers' section on the website homepage.

 The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments' costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the 'Important Numbers' section on the website homepage.​

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the 'Important Numbers' section on the website homepage

The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.