How Psoriasis Can Cause Arthritis

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  • 0:06 Unrelated Medical Conditions
  • 0:38 What is Psoriatic Arthritis
  • 1:19 Why Does Psoriatic…
  • 2:11 Clinical Signs,…
  • 2:41 Treatment and…
  • 3:26 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson will discuss a condition called psoriatic arthritis. You'll find out if it's related to psoriasis, how your own body's defense systems may play a role, and how it can be diagnosed and treated.

Unrelated Medical Conditions

One of the cool, and at the same time terrible, things about medicine and physiology is that seemingly unrelated signs may actually be quite related. I like to think of medicine as one big novel written by Dan Brown, the author of The Da Vinci Code. It seems in the beginning that all the clues and signs are unrelated, but in the end, when you piece everything together, it all falls into place. That's sort of a basic explanation of why a skin condition can cause serious harm to your joints; it may seem unrelated, but it's not.

What Is Psoriatic Arthritis?

The skin condition that I'm concerned about is called psoriasis. It's something you've almost certainly heard of. Psoriasis is an immune mediated disease that causes a person's skin to grow rapidly, resulting in red and thickened patches of skin all over the body. This condition may be associated with psoriatic arthritis. This is a form of arthritis, or inflammation of the joints, associated with people who have psoriasis. Besides the fact that psoriasis may predispose an individual to develop psoriatic arthritis, genes and age also play a role. More specifically, people around the ages of 30-50 seem to get this disease more than others.

Why Does Psoriatic Arthritis Occur?

The reasons for psoriatic arthritis aren't fully understood. We know that genes certainly contribute to the development of an aberrant immune system response which results in psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. For example, your body may be trying to fight off an infection in the skin and may accidentally start to attack your own cells in the process, resulting in the inflammation and destruction of your skin and, by extension, joints long after the infection actually clears.

I like to think of this crazy response by the immune system to be like a crazy serial killer who on a normal day wouldn't do any harm to any human being, but if they end up killing one human even by accident they get a thirst for more and keep killing humans for absolutely no reason. That's kind of like what happens with your immune system's weird response in the case of psoriasis.

Clinical Signs, Symptoms, and Diagnostics

This improper inflammatory response results in signs and symptoms such as swollen joints, such as those in the fingers and toes, pain, and spondylitis, or the inflammation of the spinal vertebrae. Besides looking for the clinical signs and symptoms noted above, a physician would also look for signs related to psoriasis I mentioned before, and they may perform X-rays to look for changes of the bones and joints in cases of arthritis such as irregular growth, grooves, and distances between joints.

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