Awareness of psoriatic arthritis low

(08/02/2017) Almost half of people affected by the skin disease, psoriasis, have never heard of the painful condition psoriatic arthritis, despite the fact that many of them will go on to develop it, new research has shown.

Psoriasis is an inflammatory skin condition, which appears as pink or red raised patches on the skin, known as plaques. These can be painful and itchy. An estimated 73,000 people in Ireland are affected and the condition can have a major impact on both physical and mental health.

According to research launched as part of a new campaign, up to 30% of people with psoriasis will develop psoriatic arthritis, which can cause pain, swelling and damage to the joints. However, 46% of people with the skin condition have never even heard of this form of arthritis.

Furthermore, 87% of people with psoriasis have never received any information about psoriatic arthritis and just 14% feel they are well informed and know a lot about it.

“The symptoms of psoriatic arthritis are quite different to those of psoriasis in that it’s a disease of joints rather than a disease of the skin. Those affected will experience swelling, pain and stiffness in the joints and will have difficulty moving their joints, particularly the hands, knees or feet.

“Early diagnosis of psoriatic arthritis is important. If we intervene and treat early, we may be able to put the disease into remission and prevent permanent damage to the joints,” explained Prof David Kane, a consultant rheumatologist at Tallaght Hospital and the Beacon Hospital.

The new campaign, ‘More than Skin Deep’, includes a series of videos that provide information on psoriatic arthritis from both experts and patients.

“I encourage everyone with psoriasis to watch the ‘More than Skin Deep’ video series to understand the signs and symptoms of psoriatic arthritis so they can be diagnosed and treated early,” Prof Kane said.

While the symptoms of this form of arthritis can vary from person to person, they can include:-Thickening and discolouration of the nails-Stiff, painful and swollen joints. This type of arthritis often effects the toes, ankles, knees and lower back-Fingers and toe can swell up like sausages-Pain and swelling at the back of the heel.

Marion Morrissey was diagnosed with psoriasis at the age of 15. The condition grew worse over the years, eventually affecting 70% of her body. She was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis in 2010.

“I noticed that my joints, particularly my hands, were sore and swollen. Things like grabbing a hair brush and grasping the steering wheel of the car were increasingly difficult. The pain began to affect every part of my life as the larger joints became swollen and stiff as well.

“I was referred to a rheumatologist, who diagnosed me with psoriatic arthritis and started me on my treatment journey. I was lucky in that there’s little permanent damage to my joints and my pain has reduced significantly meaning I can do the things I love, work full time and partake fully in family life,” she explained.

According to consultant dermatologist at Tallaght Hospital, Dr Anne-Marie Tobin, it is important to emphasise that not everyone with psoriasis will develop arthritis. However, she said she advises all of her patients with psoriasis to pay close attention and talk to their doctor if they notice any symptoms of arthritis, such as pain or swelling in the joints.

This new campaign was launched by Arthritis Ireland and Janssen Ireland. According to Arthritis Ireland CEO, John Church, awareness of psoriatic arthritis in Ireland is low, ‘yet it can have a profound effect on people’s lives, causing pain, discomfort and reducing their ability to do the things they enjoy’.

“Part of our mission is to educate people so they can understand their condition, learn to manage it and reduce the impact it has on their lives. We encourage people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis to watch the ‘More than Skin Deep’ video series and contact Arthritis Ireland or their healthcare professional if they are concerned or have questions,” Mr Church said.

The videos can be viewed here, here and here

For more information on arthritis, click here


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