Is psoriatic arthritis worse than regular arthritis?

Arthritis is an overarching term referring to inflammation of the joints, but beneath this umbrella are multiple subtypes, each with distinct characteristics. Among these, osteoarthritis (often considered “regular arthritis”) and psoriatic arthritis (PsA) are two common types. Comparing their severity is challenging since both conditions can significantly impact quality of life. This article delves into the nuances of both, highlighting their unique manifestations and challenges for those diagnosed.

What does psoriatic pain feel like?

Psoriatic arthritis, intricately linked to the skin condition psoriasis, is an inflammatory type of arthritis. Its pain is often described in distinct terms by patients.

Characteristics of Psoriatic Arthritis Pain:

  • Swollen Joints: Unlike the wear-and-tear pain of osteoarthritis, PsA often results in visibly swollen fingers and toes. This swelling can be both painful and warm to the touch.
  • Foot Pain: Many PsA sufferers describe pain at the points where tendons and ligaments attach to bones, especially at the back of the heel and in the sole of the foot.
  • Lower Back Pain: Some individuals experience a painful condition called spondylitis, which affects the spine.
  • Variable Intensity: The pain can range from mild to severe and can fluctuate in intensity. Some days may be pain-free, while others can be particularly challenging.

“Psoriatic arthritis pain is more than just joint pain. It’s a systemic inflammation that can affect the entire body.”

What does mild psoriatic arthritis look like?

Not all PsA cases manifest with the same intensity. Many individuals begin with mild symptoms, which, if left unchecked, can escalate over time. Recognising these early signs can lead to timely intervention.

Signs of Mild Psoriatic Arthritis:

  1. Subtle Joint Swelling: The swelling is less pronounced and might be limited to a few joints.
  2. Occasional Flare-Ups: Episodes of increased symptoms, known as flare-ups, occur but might be spaced out and less intense.
  3. Mild Skin Symptoms: The accompanying psoriasis might be limited to small patches or might even be absent in some cases.
  4. Fatigue: A general feeling of tiredness, not necessarily linked to physical activity.

Comparing Psoriatic Arthritis to Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis, often deemed as “regular” arthritis, primarily results from wear and tear of the joints over time. Its progression is generally slower, and it often affects commonly used joints like knees, hips, and hands. Unlike PsA, osteoarthritis doesn’t have the systemic inflammatory component.

Distinguishing Features of Osteoarthritis:

  • Stiffness: Typically, joint stiffness occurs after periods of inactivity and lasts for a short duration.
  • Localized Symptoms: Pain, tenderness, and stiffness are usually restricted to the joints affected and don’t present as a whole-body inflammation.
  • Grating Sensation: Movement of affected joints might result in a grating or cracking sound.

Conclusion

While both psoriatic arthritis and osteoarthritis can significantly impact the lives, drawing a direct comparison in terms of severity can be misleading. PsA, with its systemic inflammatory nature, can affect multiple facets of an individual’s health. In contrast, osteoarthritis, centred around joint degradation, poses a different set of challenges. It’s essential for individuals to seek prompt medical advice upon noticing symptoms, ensuring accurate diagnosis and effective management. Recognising the unique challenges of each condition allows for a tailored, patient-centric approach to care.

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