Preparing for Your Appointment
Once you’ve recognized and identified some of the symptoms that you may be having are consistent with psoriatic arthritis, your next step will be to see your physician.
Prior to Your Appointment
Before your appointment, the National Psoriasis Foundation recommends the following actions to help you and your doctor to have the most candid conversation about your symptoms and options:
Track your symptoms. Keep detailed notes of the daily symptoms you’re having so that your doctor, dermatologist and/or rheumatologist have a better idea of your symptoms.
Have a clear goal. Know what you want to discuss: your symptoms, your concerns, your treatment options. Coming in with clear goals helps your time with the doctor to be well spent.
Make a list. Keep notes from the time you schedule your appointment to the time you visit your doctor of anything you want to remember to ask your doctor. Physicians are used to questions so don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask anything. The chances are someone else has asked the doctor the same questions or has expressed the same concerns. Common questions to ask during your appointment include:
- If I have psoriasis, will develop psoriatic arthritis?
- What changes can help to relieve my joint pain, swelling and other symptoms?
- What causes the skin lesions and joint pain associated with psoriasic arthritis?
- Could I have done anything to prevent developing the condition?
- What treatment options are available?
- Are there alternative treatments?
- Are there side effects associated with either of these treatments?
If you need support, feel free to bring a friend or family member with you.
What to Expect from Your Doctor
When you meet with your doctor, he may ask you the following:
- Which joints are affected?
- What symptoms are you feeling?
- What treatments have you already tried? Have any of them helped?
- Do you have a family history of arthritis or psoriasis?
Be honest with your doctor. If you don't understand what your doctor is saying, be clear about it. If you aren't sure about a recommended treatment, or you don't think is right for your lifestyle, let him or her know.
Tests and Diagnosis
Your doctor may order the following tests for you. Many of these aim to rule out other conditions that look like psoriatic arthritis. Keep in mind that no single test can confirm a diagnosis of psoriatic arthritis.
- Blood tests. Since rheumatoid arthritis has similar symptoms to psoriatic arthritis, your doctor may require a blood test to rule out, or confirm, rheumatoid arthritis.
- Joint fluid test. This test looks for uric acid crystals in your joint fluid which point to gout and not psoriatic arthritis.
- X-rays. Having an X-ray helps to identify joint changes, which are consistent with psoriatic arthritis.
- MRI. An MRI will identify issues with the tendons and ligaments in your feet and lower back.
- Skin biopsy. Your doctor may biopsy the affected areas of your skin to look for psoriasis.
Also during the exam, your doctor may examine your joints for signs of swelling or tenderness, check your fingernails for abnormalities, and press on the soles of your feet and around your heels to identify tender points.