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Psoriatic Arthritis vs. Rheumatoid Arthritis: Here’s the Difference



If you have sore, swollen joints, there is a good chance you will encounter arthritis when looking for a cause for your symptoms. However, in order to find the right treatment, you need to become much more specific. Arthritis is an umbrella term for more than 100 different diseases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And there are at least two types that could be responsible for your tender, sore joints: psoriatic arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Although they have some overlapping symptoms, the two conditions are quite different. Here’s what you need to know about psoriatic arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Psoriatic arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are both chronic inflammatory diseases.

In both diseases, an overzealous immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells in your body. This, in turn, can lead to joint pain, stiffness, and swelling, along with constant fatigue and other symptoms more specific to both diseases.

The causes of psoriatic arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are still up in the air, but doctors suspect that the diseases have a genetic component that can make a person more susceptible to certain environmental triggers.

In any case, psoriatic arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are lifelong illnesses that can come in flares (times when symptoms are particularly exacerbated). And while there is no cure for either disease, treatments for both psoriatic arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis have come a long way in keeping symptoms at bay and sometimes even putting the disease into remission. Additionally, the right medication can help protect your body from the permanent damage that these conditions, if left untreated, can cause. Hence, it is important to work with your doctor to manage your condition.

Psoriatic arthritis commonly affects people with psoriasis.

Psoriasis, a disease that commonly causes inflamed, scaly patches of skin in areas like your knees, elbows, and scalp, increases your risk of developing psoriatic arthritis later. The Cleveland Clinic estimates that up to 30% of people with psoriasis will be diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis. However, it is possible to get psoriatic arthritis even if you don̵

7;t have psoriasis and vice versa. Psoriatic arthritis affects people of any sex at relatively equal rates and typically occurs in people between the ages of 30 and 50, says the Cleveland Clinic.

NYU Langone Health explains that there are five types of psoriatic arthritis. Depending on which one you have, the disease can appear in your body in very different ways. About three quarters of people with this condition have a type called asymmetric oligoarthritis, which affects up to five joints, but not necessarily the same on both sides of the body. If so, it may be due to symmetrical arthritis, a type of psoriatic arthritis that is similar to rheumatoid arthritis. There is also spondylitic arthritis, which affects the spine, and distal interphalangeal predominant psoriatic arthritis, which mainly affects the joints near your fingernails and toenails. The rarest form of psoriatic arthritis is arthritis mutilans. According to the Mayo Clinic, it is a severe form of the disease that can destroy the bones in your hands.

Up to 80% of people with psoriatic arthritis have nail changes such as pitting, crumbs or ridges and ridges. Additionally, foot pain, especially in the back of your heel or sole where tendons and ligaments attach to bones, is common in psoriatic arthritis, as is lower back pain, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The inflammation from psoriatic arthritis can also cause eye problems such as uveitis. This condition can lead to permanent loss of vision. So watch out for early warning signs such as eye pain, redness, sensitivity to light and “swimmers” that are blocking parts of your eyesight.

Rheumatoid arthritis does not have this psoriasis connection.

The Cleveland Clinic reports that women are diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at 2.5 times the rate of men. A common misconception about rheumatoid arthritis is that it is a disease of the elderly, but the truth is that it is commonly diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50.

While rheumatoid arthritis can affect people in different ways, its distinctive features include tenderness, pain, and swelling in more than one joint, according to the CDC. And while psoriatic arthritis can affect different joints on either side of the body, rheumatoid arthritis usually causes more symmetrical symptoms, says David Wanalista, DO, rheumatologist at Atlantic General Rheumatology. As a progressive disease, it usually gets worse over time, starting with the joints between the fingers and hands, and the toes and feet. The inflammation from rheumatoid arthritis can wear down your cartilage, and without this tissue to act as a shock absorber, your bones can eventually erode and lead to the fusion of the joint.


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