Psoriatic arthritis causes pain and swelling in and around the joints and tendons and nearly 1 in 4 people with psoriasis develop psoriatic arthritis. More than 2 million people currently have been diagnosed with this disease, but there are some exciting new treatment options from Cosentyx.
TheCelebrityCafe.com connected with rheumatologist Dr. Grace Wright who shed some light on this much-overlooked condition and offered insight on what to do if you or a loved one has it.
Michelle Tompkins: can you please tell me a bit about yourself?
Dr. Grace White: Yes. I am a practicing rheumatologist here for 20 years. I am a clinical associate professor at NYU and I take care of patients and spend a lot of time in educating.
Michelle Tompkins: Now, can you please tell me about psoriatic arthritis? What is it?
Dr. Grace White: Psoriatic arthritis is interesting. It's an auto-immune disease that affects both joints and skin. So there's inflammatory lesions in the skin, inflammation in the joints and inflammation in the tendons where they're attached. It affects many million people, about two million in the U.S., and really can have a lot of functional consequences where patients can't move well. They have pain when they start to move, the swelling of joints, sometimes swelling of the entire digit, so you'll see an entire finger or toe that's swollen. And in addition to that, they can have extensive changes in the skin, where sort of that red, scaly, thickened skin, not the same as eczema, but really sort of much more inflamed than that. It's chronic and can have flares, so patients can sort of go through bouts of feeling well and then have sudden exacerbations where everything flares, stiffness, pain, and swelling, as well as a skin-flaring. So this can be quite problematic for people who live with this disease.
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Michelle Tompkins: Who typically gets it?
Dr. Grace White: Well, both men and women. Both young and old. So we see predominance in sort of the 30 to 50 age categories, but you can sometimes see this in children starting in their teens, and you can see it in the older adults as well.
Michelle Tompkins: How is it diagnosed?
Dr. Grace White: It is best diagnosed by a rheumatologist in terms of the joint disease. Skin often precedes the joint disease, so many patients are already seeing a dermatologist and may notice some stiffness. But it requires a very careful exam to detect the changes that are unique to psoriatic arthritis, because sometimes people confuse this with, "I sprained my back." It can affect the spine, or they might think it's rheumatoid or osteoarthritis, so really it's best to be a good clinical exam, laboratory testing, and x-rays can be very helpful.
Michelle Tompkins: What are treatment options?
Dr. Grace White: Many treatment options exist, and depending on how severe it is, there are a bunch of choices. So you can start off with either oral agents, we have topical for the skin, and then we have the biologics that are also very helpful. And I am here speaking on behalf of Novartis, so there are many biologics in the space now, thankfully, that can help to manage both the skin symptoms as well as the joint symptoms.
Michelle Tompkins: What is biologic?
Dr. Grace White: The biologic is a unique class of medicines that are really grown in living cells. They tend to be complex proteins and so they are given either by injection or infusion. You can't give these as pills because they get destroyed by the stomach, and they work to target various cells and chemicals in the immune system in the body, to shut down the inflammation. So it's really sort of attacking the inflammation at its source. And in so doing, that's how you reduce the swelling and the stiffness and the skin changes.
Michelle Tompkins: Where can people learn more?
Dr. Grace White: For the general care of psoriatic arthritis, there are multiple sites. But for the medication with Novartis, cosentyx.com is a good site. The American College of Rheumatology website is also a good starting point for many people. And then there's the National Psoriasis Foundation as well.
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Michelle Tompkins: Okay. Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Dr. Grace White: Just that it's important that people don't just suffer from this because there are treatment options. And they should really seek the care of an experienced rheumatologist in their community.
Psoriatic arthritis treatments and extra information can be found at www.cosentyx.com.