Diagnosing PsA

PsA is a progressive condition that may get worse over time. Although there is no cure, early and active management of the disease is crucial to ensuring well-being and reducing the risk of irreversible damage to the joints. Although the exact mechanisms of how PsA unfolds are still being investigated, there are several factors that may influence how likely a person is to be diagnosed with PsA.

Diagnosing PsA may involve a few steps that confirm a diagnosis of PsA and/or rule out other diseases that may present with similar symptoms. Signs and symptoms are carefully recorded, given the progressive skin and joint symptoms expected with PsA. Your doctor will carefully examine the joints for swelling or tenderness, check your fingernails for pitting or other abnormalities. X-ray, ultrasound and MRI scans may be performed to visualize inflammation and damage to joints, tendons and ligaments that cause pain and discomfort. There are no blood tests to diagnose PsA.

Sometimes, joint symptoms similar to PsA may be caused by other diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and gout. To rule out RA, a physician can perform a test to measure levels of rheumatoid factor (RF), an autoantibody that plays a major role in attacking cells within the body and triggers destruction of joints; patients with PsA will typically test negative for RF. In gout, accumulation of uric acid in the joints is the cause of the physical manifestations. Therefore, uric acid levels in joint fluid may be measured to rule out gout as the potential explanation of symptoms.