This area of the website is intended for members of the public, and provides general information about Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), Psoriasis (PsO), Psoriatic arthritis (PsA), Ankylosing spondylitis (AS), Non-radiographic axial spondyloarthritis (nr-axSpA), Ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn's disease (CD).
Rheumatoid arthritis is a long-term condition that causes pain, swelling and stiffness in the joints. It is the second most common form of arthritis in the UK. The symptoms usually affect the hands, feet and wrists. It is an autoimmune disease, where, the body’s own immune system starts to attack the cells that line the joints by mistake, making the joints swollen, stiff and painful. Other general symptoms of RA include tiredness, depression, irritability, sweating, fever, and weight loss. No single test can give a definite diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis in the early stages of the condition. Doctors have to arrive at a diagnosis based on the symptoms, a physical examination and the results of x-rays, scans and blood tests. The exact cause of RA is still unclear however, some lifestyle and genetic factors may be involved.
Psoriatic arthritis is a type of arthritis that develops in some people with the skin condition psoriasis. It typically causes affected joints to become inflamed (swollen), stiff and painful. Psoriasis is a skin condition that causes a red, scaly rash, especially on the elbows, knees, back, buttocks and scalp. The pain, swelling and stiffness associated with psoriatic arthritis can affect any joint in the body, but the condition often affects joints including the hands, feet, knees, neck, spine and elbows. Like psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis is thought to occur as a result of the immune system mistakenly attacking healthy tissue, but it's not clear why some people with psoriasis develop psoriatic arthritis and others don't. The arthritis and the skin condition are both caused by inflammation. The exact cause of psoriatic arthritis is unclear, although, genetic factors may be involved.
Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a long-term (chronic) condition in which the spine and other areas of the body become inflamed. Spondylitis simply means inflammation of the spine. The symptoms can vary but usually involve: back pain and stiffness; pain and swelling in other parts of the body – caused by inflammation of the joints (arthritis) and inflammation where a tendon joins a bone; and extreme tiredness. The symptoms usually develop slowly over several months or years, and may come and go, and improve or get worse, over many years. Ankylosing spondylitis can affect anyone, although it's most common in young men and most likely to start in your late teens or 20s. It's not known exactly what causes AS, but in many cases there seems to be a link with a particular gene known as HLA-B27. Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) can be difficult to diagnose because the condition develops slowly and there's no definitive test.
Axial spondyloarthritis (axial SpA) is inflammatory arthritis where the main symptom is back pain. Sometimes damage can be seen in your back (spine) on X-ray. At other times this may not be seen on an x-ray, but inflammation can be seen in this area using an MRI scan. In this situation the condition is referred to as non-radiographic axial spondyloarthritis (nr-axSpA). The term non-radiographic means ‘not on x-ray’. The doctor may look for other signs or symptoms before confirming diagnosis.
Ulcerative colitis is a long-term condition, where the colon and rectum (large bowel) become inflamed. Small ulcers can develop on the colon's lining, and can bleed and produce pus. The main symptoms of ulcerative colitis are: recurring diarrhoea, which may contain blood, mucus or pus; abdominal (tummy) pain; and needing to empty your bowels frequently. Other symptoms may include fatigue (extreme tiredness), loss of appetite and weight loss. Some people may go for weeks or months with very mild symptoms, or none at all (known as remission), followed by periods where the symptoms are particularly troublesome (known as flare-ups or relapses). Ulcerative colitis is thought to be an autoimmune condition. This means the immune system – the body's defence against infection – goes wrong and attacks healthy tissue. A number of blood and physical tests can be done to diagnose ulcerative colitis.
Crohn's disease is a long-term condition that causes inflammation of the lining of the digestive system. Inflammation can affect any part of the digestive system, from the mouth to the back passage, but most commonly occurs in the last section of the small intestine (ileum) or the large intestine (colon). Common symptoms can include diarrhoea, abdominal pain, fatigue (extreme tiredness), unintended weight loss as well as blood and mucus in your faeces (stools). People with Crohn's disease sometimes go for long periods without symptoms or with very mild symptoms (known as remission). Remission can be followed by periods where symptoms flare up and become particularly troublesome. Crohn’s disease is caused by a combination of factors; the genes you are born with, plus an abnormal reaction of your immune system to certain bacteria in your intestines, along with an unknown trigger that could include viruses, bacteria, diet, smoking, stress or something else in the environment.
Psoriasis is a skin condition that causes red, flaky, crusty patches of skin covered with silvery scales. The severity of psoriasis varies greatly from person to person. Psoriasis is a long-lasting (chronic) disease that usually involves periods when you have no symptoms or mild symptoms, followed by periods when symptoms are more severe. This can have a major impact on their quality of life. People with psoriasis have an increased production of skin cells. Skin cells are normally made and replaced every three to four weeks, but in psoriasis this process only lasts about three to seven days. The resulting build-up of skin cells is what creates the patches associated with psoriasis. It's thought to be related to a problem with the immune system and for people with psoriasis, it attacks healthy skin cells by mistake.