The term rheumatoid arthritis (RA) was coined by Sir Alfred Baring Garrod in 1858. Rheumatoid arthritis is the most frequent occurring chronic, inflammatory joint disease and can affect any joint, even larger ones like shoulders, elbows, or knees. The inflammation causes swelling resulting in slowed and limited mobility and pain. If untreated, joint erosions can occur, which lead to functional impairment up to disability. Therefore, an early and appropriate treatment is important to prevent joint damage.
About 1% of the worldwide population suffers from rheumatoid arthritis with approximately three times more women than men. Patients are mostly aged 30 to 50 years when first disease symptoms occur.
In most patients, rheumatoid arthritis starts with tender and swollen joints. Often the joints of hands and feet are affected. The symptoms are mainly symmetrical which means that they occur in the same joints on both sides of the body, e.g. both wrists. In addition, joint stiffness after long rest periods like in the morning and a general fatigue are common symptoms. Your doctor will make several examinations including blood tests and ultrasound scanning, MRI, or X-rays to confirm the diagnosis. You will probably be asked about your family history. As soon as the diagnosis is certain, your doctor will start with an appropriate therapy for you to ease your current symptoms and to prevent future joint erosions.
Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is an inflammatory disease of the skin and of joints. The disease can develop at any time with a major peak at the age of 35 to 45. Two to three percent of the worldwide population have psoriasis, and up to 30% of these patients are estimated to develop psoriatic arthritis. Usually the arthritis develops after skin lesions within five to ten years after onset of psoriasis, but also the similar or reverse course occurs. Similar to psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis affects both sexes equally.
Psoriatic arthritis cannot be diagnosed by one specific test. Instead, a variety of medical screenings (physical examination, blood tests, X-rays, MRI, questions about the family history of psoriasis etc.) will be done by your doctor. Symptoms like painful and swollen tendons and joints, red and painful eyes, fatigue, morning stiffness, and nail changes can indicate psoriatic arthritis. The arthritis can appear in any joint such as the hips, knees, or spine. Also the distal joints (closest to the nails) of fingers and toes can be affected by arthritis, a symptom which is called dactylitis. In general, joints are mainly affected in an asymmetrical manner which means that they do not occur in the same joints on both sides of the body (e.g. only one wrist is affected, not both at the same time).
If psoriasis existed before, patients usually consult their general practitioner or dermatologist. However, patients with psoriatic arthritis should also consider visiting a rheumatologist who is a specialist for arthritis. A timely treatment can reduce troubles with daily activities caused by joint pain. As psoriatic arthritis is a chronic disease an appropriate treatment can also help to slow down and even prevent joint and tissue destruction.