If you have been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, you are not alone. According to the National Institutes of Health, there are over 80 recognized autoimmune health conditions that affect more than 23 million people in the United States alone. Scientists still don’t fully understand what causes your immune system to attack healthy cells, but research so far seems to indicate that there is a combination of genetics, environmental triggers (e.g., diet, stress, infection), and the immune system itself at work.
Common Symptoms of Autoimmune Diseases
Most autoimmune diseases cause inflammation, but some target organs or joints while others are systemic, affecting the whole body. In addition to inflammation, other common symptoms include:
- Rashes or other skin problems
- Digestive issues
- Weight changes
- So-called brain fog, or difficulty concentrating
- Joint and muscle pain
Because many of these symptoms occur in a variety of health issues and can flare up and disappear periodically, it can be difficult to get a diagnosis and proper treatment. If you think you might have an autoimmune condition, seeing a rheumatologist is an important first step toward getting help. Rheumatologists specialize in diagnosing and treating systemic autoimmune conditions and rheumatic musculoskeletal diseases. Seeking treatment early can help prevent long-term damage to your body.
Psoriatic arthritis and lupus are two autoimmune diseases that share several symptoms and are often mistaken for each other. Both conditions are characterized by inflammation throughout the body, joint pain and swelling (arthritis), and skin issues. While it is possible to have both conditions simultaneously, there are significant differences between the two that can help your rheumatologist when diagnosing you with either disease.
1. Skin issues
People with psoriatic arthritis also often have psoriasis. Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that causes red or white flaky patches of skin that can be dry, cracked, and itchy. These patches usually occur over joints like elbows and knees but can also appear on the scalp and back.
Lupus, on the other hand, is often characterized by a butterfly-shaped rash on the face. Rashes from lupus are not usually itchy, but the skin can become extremely sensitive to sun and light.
2. Joint pain
Although both diseases can cause inflammation and pain in the joints, psoriatic arthritis tends to largely affect the hands and feet, including the heel, and lower back. Psoriatic arthritis sufferers might experience “sausage digits” where an entire toe or finger is swollen, Achilles tendinitis, or plantar fasciitis. Joint pain from lupus is more widespread.
The arthritis associated with psoriatic arthritis is erosive, which means it can lead to loss of bone and cartilage. Arthritis from lupus is not erosive. Your doctor might take x-rays to look for signs of bone loss if they suspect psoriatic arthritis.
Get help with your symptoms today!
There are currently no cures for psoriatic arthritis or lupus, so doctors focus on treating the symptoms to provide pain relief, increase your mobility, and reduce or prevent joint damage. Our compassionate team of experts at Advanced Rheumatology of Houston is dedicated to helping people struggling with autoimmune issues achieve the high quality of life they desire and deserve. We have years of experience diagnosing and creating individualized treatment plans to address a wide range of chronic health conditions, including psoriatic arthritis and lupus. Please call us at (281) 766-7886 to make an appointment. We look forward to helping you live your life to the fullest!