Patient with psoriatic arthritis talking to her doctor

Getting a PsA Diagnosis

Due to the severity of psoriasis, it can often lead to psoriatic arthritis. For that reason, psoriatic arthritis is a comorbidity of psoriasis. Psoriatic arthritis is pain in the joints of your body. For example, it can be in your back, knees, hips, hands or any other areas that have joints. About 30% of people dealing with psoriasis will get psoriatic arthritis. Once PsA starts it can cause permanent joint damage. It is something you should take very seriously. If the joint damage becomes permanent it cannot be undone by any medicine or medical procedure. So how is it diagnosed? What should you know about it?

Determining if it's PsA

Herein lies the problem. Getting an actual psoriatic arthritis diagnosis is not as simple as you might think. Yes, you have pain. Yes, you tell the doctor immediately or at least that is what I hope you do. Remember once arthritis causes damage it cannot be undone. The problem is there is no actual test that will diagnose your psoriatic arthritis. Your doctor is going to want to do an x-ray of the area that you are telling him where the pain is located. The problem with an x-ray is that it shows bones. Yes, they can see the damage that arthritis might do to any bones in your body, but psoriatic arthritis tends to attack the joints, not the bones. If you have a doctor such as a primary care doctor or a dermatologist chances are they are going to send you to a rheumatologist to be evaluated. This may help to get the psoriatic arthritis diagnosis or it may not. As I stated, the problem with x-rays is that they show bones not so much your joints. A rheumatologist is likely to say it is osteoarthritis or other arthritis instead. This is the problem with not having a set test that can determine psoriatic arthritis.

My experience getting diagnosed with PsA

My pain started about sixteen years ago. It started in my lower back. At the time I was a private housekeeper working for a prominent family in my area that also had a medical practice. I would clean their home as well as the medical practice. I chalked up my daily back pain to having to bend over so much picking things up. I had not even heard the term psoriatic arthritis or what it was. Yes, I did have severe psoriasis at this time. At my worse, I was 80% covered body wise with plaques. Instead of going to the doctor who was treating my psoriasis and telling him about the back pain I let it go saying nothing. Knowing now, what I didn't know then, has caused permanent damage to my back. It wasn't until I started seeing a private dermatologist that the term psoriatic arthritis was introduced to me. He said it was a safe bet to assume if I had widespread plaques on my body then if I had any joint pain I had psoriatic arthritis. I was floored. Had all the years of back pain really been psoriatic arthritis? I was immediately started on a biologic that was designed to treat psoriasis as well as psoriatic arthritis.

Fast forward sixteen years

While I am being treated for psoriatic arthritis it is sad to say there is still no definitive test for determining psoriatic arthritis. My back pain is something I will always live with now for the rest of my life. It can be treated, but the damage to my back cannot be undone. I am excited to see that the National Psoriasis Foundation is now making it a priority to fund research into making a test that will diagnosis psoriatic arthritis. How long will it be before there is a test that actually does that is anyone's guess. So what does that mean for you? If you have joint pain do not dismiss it as I did. Speak to your doctors. Make them listen to you and take it seriously. After all, it is your body and who knows your body better than you do. Do not put it off or that permanent damage that I now deal with can be your reality as well. Take action.

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