Although many people think of arthritis as a single condition, there are actually multiple forms. Two of the most common types include rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and psoriatic arthritis (PsA). While both start in the immune system, these two types of arthritis are, in fact, different from one another, with each requiring unique treatments for effective relief.
A chronic inflammatory disorder, rheumatoid arthritis usually impacts the small joints in the hands and feet. Unlike osteoarthritis which results from wear-and-tear damage, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that results when the body’s immune system attacks the body’s tissues, causing painful swelling, joint deformity and bone erosion. In addition to serious joint problems, RA can also affect bodily organs, such as the lungs, eyes, skin and blood vessels.
Symptoms of RA include:
- Swollen, warm, tender joints
- Morning stiffness that can persist for hours
- Rheumatoid nodules that feel like firm bumps of tissue beneath the skin
- Fever, fatigue, weight loss
A form of arthritis that impacts people with psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis results in joint stiffness, pain and swelling. It can affect virtually any area of the body, including the spine and fingertips. It can also range in severity, with some people experiencing mild symptoms and others severe pain. As with psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis can manifest as flare-ups with lengthy periods of remission.
Symptoms of PsA include:
- Joint pain in one or multiple locations
- Dactylitis or swollen toes and fingers
- A specific back pain known as spondylitis
- Enthesitis or pain where tendons and ligaments join bones
Getting Proper Treatment
Psoriatic arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are both chronic, progressive diseases with no cure. That said, modern treatment can provide significant relief for most people. Treatment strategies for PsA and RA both focus on managing pain and preventing joint damage.
Because PsA can affect people differently, some do fine with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). For those who experience severe pain or discomfort, anti-rheumatic or anti-tumor necrosis drugs may become necessary. You may also require steroid injections or surgery if medications prove ineffective.
RA treatment strategies can also vary based on the severity of symptoms and progression of the disease. In addition to NSAIDs, steroids and physical therapy, patients often benefit from modern disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), which can slow the progression of RA. Modern biologic response modifiers are also sometimes used to target parts of the immune system that trigger inflammation.
When to See a Doctor
If you have RA or PsA, it’s important to visit your doctor regularly. Without proper treatment, both of these conditions can lead to serious joint damage and disabilities. With the help of your doctor and other health professionals, you can relieve your arthritis pain and improve the quality of your life.