Knowledge really is power. Knowing the language of your condition is the first step to managing it.
If you have recently been diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis (PsA), you may feel overwhelmed by all the new information you’re navigating. You’ve probably found yourself searching the internet and scouring social media trying to find answers to your questions.
In the process, you’ve probably come across at least a few words and concepts you’ve never heard about before. There are so many medical terms, colloquial phrases, and abbreviations to learn!
Knowledge really is power. Knowing the language of your condition is one of the first steps to managing it.
Here is a glossary of PsA-related terms that can help you find your way on your journey to learning more about the condition.
A term for discriminating against individuals with disabilities. Often, it’s spoken in reference to how society prioritizes the needs of non-disabled people.
A medical term to describe joint pain or stiffness. Sometimes people incorrectly use “arthritis” and “arthralgia” interchangeably. The difference is that arthralgia refers to the symptom of joint pain while arthritis is a diagnosable condition.
A very broad term used in regards to many symptoms and conditions. As opposed to arthralgia, arthritis includes pain and limited mobility due to inflammation.
Arthritis warriors describe someone living with a form of arthritis. This is a term most commonly used by people within the community to describe themselves and their peers.
An autoimmune disease is a condition where a person’s immune system mistakenly attacks their healthy tissues.
This term describes the cognitive symptoms associated with many chronic conditions. Sometimes brain fog includes forgetfulness, challenges focusing, or confusion.
Brain fog can have many causes including:
This is a commonly used abbreviation for computerized tomography scan. This type of imaging uses multiple X-rays to take images at different angles. A computer then processes these scans to create cross-sectional images.
A CT scan is more detailed than a typical X-ray and can help healthcare professionals visualize bones, blood vessels, and soft tissue with more precision.
CC is an abbreviation for “chief complaint.” You may come across CC in notes from your medical visits.
A chief complaint is what the patient states, in their own words, as the reason for their visit.
The term for any health condition that lasts longer than 12 months.
A term to describe other medical conditions someone may have in addition to PsA. Common comorbities of PsA include:
The dermis is the second layer of skin, just beneath the epidermis. The dermis is a thick layer of connective tissue that contains structures like nerve endings, hair follicles, and blood capillaries.
DMARD stands for “disease-modifying antirheumatic drug.” These medications are used to treat autoimmune diseases like PsA. They help protect joints by preventing inflammation.
There are several types of DMARD and ways that they may be used, including:
The medical abbreviation for the word “diagnosis.”
This is the outermost layer of skin — the skin that is visible. It serves as protection for the body.
A flare, aka flare-up, refers to a heightened state of disease activity and symptoms. A flare may be associated with environmental triggers or stress, but often its cause is unknown.
Homeopathic medicine is a type of alternative medicine that started in the 1700s. It involves using herbs and plants to heal the body.
Homeopathy is based on the belief that “like causes like” — so something that causes symptoms may also be able to cure the same symptoms.
One homeopathic treatment involves using diluted substances to trigger controlled responses in the body. Research on the effectiveness of homeopathy is still lacking, however.
Human leukocyte antigens (HLAs) are proteins generally found on white blood cells. HLAs help your immune system tell the difference between foreign substances that can cause infection and healthy body tissue.
The immune system is a complex network of specialized cells and organs that work together to defend the body against foreign substances like bacteria and viruses.
A term for when an area of your body becomes firm due to increased inflammation. It can cause limited mobility and stiffness in affected areas.
Someone may be described as immunocompromised when they have a reduced ability to fight infections. People may become immunocompromised due to an autoimmune condition or due to medications used to treat the condition.
An infection occurs when the body is invaded by microorganisms that reproduce and multiply. Infections can cause disease.
Inflammation is the reaction that occurs in cells and tissues in response to an injury or disease. It’s often categorized as:
This is a procedure where a doctor uses a long, thin needle to take a small sample of fluid from a joint. The sample is then sent to a lab for testing. The testing can help your doctor figure out the cause of your joint concerns.
Joint aspiration can also be used for therapeutic purposes. A doctor may use it to remove fluid from the joint to help relieve pain and pressure.
A slang term for medications used to treat PsA by the people who live with it. Often, these are medications that are given by self-injection or intravenously.
The term for when a skin lesion appears at the site of an injury and penetrates both the epidermis and dermis of the skin. Koebner’s phenomenon occurs on skin that was otherwise healthy prior to the injury or trauma.
Sometimes this is the first sign that points a doctor toward diagnosing someone with psoriasis.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is an imaging test that uses magnets and computer-generated radio waves to take pictures of soft tissue and organs of the body.
This is a more detailed scan than an X-ray which generally takes longer than other scans. You may need to lie in the machine with enclosed sides.
A word used to describe feeling run down, flu-like, or just generally sickly.
A slang term for the period after taking PsA medications that lasts roughly 24 hours. This can feel different from person to person but may include:
While there isn’t scientific evidence backing up the term, side effects from medication can occur. Methotrexate hangover is commonly discussed in the PsA community.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are medications used to relieve pain by reducing inflammation. These are available both over-the-counter (OTC) and by prescription (RX).
The abbreviation for “over-the-counter.” OTC medications are any medication that does not require a prescription by a healthcare professional.
Something you can feel, like a mass or heat.
Many in the chronic condition community use this to describe when their pain inhibits sleep. The word “painsomnia” combines the words pain and insomnia.
Phosphodiesterase 4 inhibitors — or PDE4 inhibitors — are a newer class of oral medication used to treat PsA by preventing inflammation. These are typically prescribed to people who cannot take or do not want to take traditional DMARDs.
Plaques are raised, thickened, red or pink patches on the skin. Sometimes they have a silvery, scaly appearance. Plaques are the most common symptom of psoriasis.
Meaning “susceptible,” if you are predisposed to a certain condition, it means you are more likely to develop it because of genetics or other existing factors.
A chronic skin condition characterized by raised plaques or patches on the skin. Psoriasis is an autoimmune disorder that is closely related to PsA.
In most cases, individuals are diagnosed with psoriasis before they are diagnosed with PsA. It is possible (but less common) to have PsA before psoriasis onset.
RF stands for rheumatoid factor. RF is an antibody that’s often present in the blood of people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
RF is not usually present in the blood of people with PsA, so sometimes this test can help doctors distinguish between the two conditions.
A slang term used by people living with autoimmune, or rheumatological, diagnoses. It represents the way that people can feel connected by their rheumatological medical diagnosis.
The medical abbreviation for “prescription.”
A slang term often used by people living with chronic health conditions to describe themselves. The term came from the idea of “Spoon Theory,” coined by Christine Miserandino. This theory used hypothetical spoons to represent the limited amount of energy someone with a chronic illness has each day.
There are many groups, hashtags, and support communities that use this theory and the derived term.
“Steroid” is the shortened form of “corticosteroids.” Steroids like prednisone are synthetic (human-made) versions of hormones that naturally occur in the body.
These medications limit your immune system to control inflammation. Steroids may be used orally (by mouth), via an inhaler or nasal spray, as eye drops, topically (on the skin), or by injection.
Steroids are fairly strong medications and come with potential side effects.
When something is systemic, it affects the entire body. For example, fevers are systemic but a rash is not.
Localized is the opposite of systemic.
A type of white blood cell (WBC) that’s part of the immune system. T cells help the body fight disease.
If someone has an autoimmune condition like PsA, T cells may be overproduced. This can cause inflammation and uncontrolled reproduction of skin cells.
In PsA, topical products or medications are put on the outermost layer of the skin. Lotions and ointments are topicals that can be applied directly to the skin.
While this word is not exclusive to health, it’s often used to describe something that causes a flare to start or worsen. Injuries and infections are common triggers for people with PsA, but some people’s disease activity is “triggered” by other things, such as:
X-rays are one-dimensional pictures of the inside of the body. This type of imaging scan is good for visualizing fluid, air, and bone.
This term has been used in medical contexts to describe someone with a rare disease. It is now the official symbol or logo used among the rare disease community.
Medically reviewed on August 12, 2022
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