Sausage-like fingers or toes; a red scaly skin rash; pitted nails and stiff, painful, swollen joints – these are some of the symptoms of psoriatic arthritis (PsA), which Arthritis Ireland is highlighting in a newly launched health awareness campaign.
The patient organisation and research charity is looking to inform people about the autoimmune condition which affects thousands of people in Ireland.
It is estimated that up to one-third of people with psoriasis may also develop psoriatic arthritis.
Psoriatic arthritis is a form of inflammatory arthritis that can cause pain, swelling and sometimes damage to any joint in the body.
It is not known exactly what causes the disease, although research has shown that genetic and environmental factors can play a role. It can affect people at any age.
Psoriatic arthritis can cause permanent joint damage quickly when not treated. Once damage occurs, it is not reversible and can cause significant pain.
Dr Laura Durcan, consultant rheumatologist at Beaumont Hospital, has recorded an information talk about PsA, which is available online.
Speaking on the condition, she said: “An early diagnosis is key to ensuring that patients have a normal life, like having a job, a family, that the person can play sport and socialise. In order to achieve this, it is vital that patients are seen sufficiently early, before irreversible damage sets in.”
“This is a systemic condition, meaning that over time, inflammation can affect multiple joints and even organs.
"However, research has confirmed that treating PsA early and aggressively often improves the long-term outcomes and significantly reduces damage,” stated Dr Durcan.
Arthritis Ireland is encouraging people to educate themselves about the symptoms of the condition and to be proactive self-managers if living with PsA.
As part of the campaign, the charity is undertaking a major survey on the impact of the disease on people’s lives.
“If you feel there is something going wrong in your body, seek medical advice,” said Brian Lynch, head of communications and advocacy at Arthritis Ireland.
“Psoriatic arthritis is an usual condition because it can look very different from one person to the next. In some people, symptoms develop quickly and can be quite severe, while in others, they take weeks or months.”
“We are asking people with psoriatic arthritis to share their experiences of the condition by completing the survey.
"It takes 10 minutes to do and will give us very valuable information on the impact of the disease on people’s lives,” said Lynch.
The survey can be undertaken on the Arthritis Ireland website – www.arthritisireland.ie