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  • Psoriatic arthritis typically develops about five to 12 years after first having psoriasis, and it occurs in 7 to 42 percent of people with the skin condition
  • Just like many other types of arthritis, with proper knowledge and care about the disease, you can alleviate the pain that goes with it and get your life back on track
 

Psoriatic Arthritis: Signs, Symptoms and Treatment

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Aside from irritating your skin, psoriasis can also target an important part of your body: the joints. Psoriatic arthritis is a type of arthritis that develops among psoriasis patients, resulting in inflammation in and around the joints.1

According to the Mayo Clinic, most patients tend to develop psoriasis first before being diagnosed with the arthritis, but the joint problems already exist before the first lesions appear.2

Psoriatic arthritis typically develops between five to 12 years after first having psoriasis,3 and it occurs between roughly 7 to 42 percent of people with the skin condition. While anyone can be affected, men and women aged 30 to 50 years old are most prone to this condition.4

What Causes Psoriatic Arthritis?

Psoriatic arthritis occurs when an abnormal immune system prompts an attack on both healthy cells and tissue. This triggers joint inflammation and an overproduction of skin cells.

Unfortunately, there is no definite cause as to why the immune system suddenly launches an attack,5 but it is said that genetic, environmental and immunological factors could play a role.6

Genetics are a big factor in being diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis, as around 40 percent of people with the disease tend to have relatives with either psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis. Children whose parents have psoriasis usually show an increased risk of having psoriatic arthritis compared to children whose parents do not have the disease.7

Environmental factors such as bacterial and viral infections, as well as physical trauma,8 may also result in the onset of psoriatic arthritis.9 Meanwhile, having abnormalities in your immune system or a human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) diagnosis could also cause psoriatic arthritis.10

Signs and Symptoms That You Have Psoriatic Arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis could manifest in tender and inflamed muscles and tendons in these body parts, either on just one side or on both sides of your body:11,12

Fingers

Wrists

Spine

Feet

Eyes (uveitis)

Neck

Symptoms of psoriatic arthritis are said to resemble those of rheumatoid arthritis,13 with the most common hallmarks being: 14

Fatigue

Tenderness, pain and swelling over the tendons

Swollen fingers and toes

Stiffness, pain, throbbing, swelling and tenderness in one or more joints

Reduced range of motion

Morning stiffness and tiredness

Nail changes such as separation of the nail from the nail bed and/or the nail becoming pitted and mimicking fungus

Redness and pain in the eye (conjunctivitis)


How to Diagnose Psoriatic Arthritis

Should you experience any of psoriatic arthritis symptoms, consult a physician immediately. A physical exam can be done, which involves the following steps:15

Closely examining the joints for signs of swelling or tenderness.

Inspecting the fingernails for pitting, flaking and other abnormalities.

Pressing on the soles of your feet and around your heels to locate tender areas.

A single test is usually not enough to confirm psoriatic arthritis. Other examinations may be needed to rule out other causes of joint pain, such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout.16

Imaging tests could also be conducted to check for signs of psoriatic arthritis. Your physician could recommend X-rays that can track joint changes that transpire if you have psoriatic arthritis. On the other hand, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) could also be utilized to see if there are problems with tendons and ligaments in your feet and lower back.

Aside from these imaging tests, the following laboratory tests may also be conducted:17

Rheumatoid factor (RF): people with rheumatoid arthritis have the RF antibody in their blood, but those with psoriatic arthritis do not. By undergoing this antibody test, your physician can distinguish whether you have rheumatoid arthritis or psoriatic arthritis.

Joint fluid test: during this test, your physician uses a long needle to remove a small sample of fluid from one of the affected joints (usually the knee). If uric acid crystals are present in the joint fluid, this means that you have gout and not psoriatic arthritis.

How to Treat Psoriatic Arthritis

Conventional treatment protocols for psoriatic arthritis include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroids, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and biologics.18 But you’re better off without these pharmaceutical drugs, as they have been linked to various negative side effects, such as:19,20,20,21,22

NSAIDs Corticosteroids (whether oral, inhaled, topical or injected) DMARDs Biologics
Upset stomach Glaucoma, or elevated pressure in the eyes Upset stomach Severe infections, such as lung infection
Nausea Cataracts, or clouding of the lens in one or both of your eyes Skin rashes Liver damage
Vomiting Fluid retention and swelling in your legs Headaches Lessened ability to form new cells
GI bleeding Weight gain Dizziness Nausea
Cardiovascular or kidney problems Higher risk of infections Sore throat
Hypertension Increased blood sugar levels Unexplained bruises, bleeding or paleness
Death Formation of red lesions Symptoms of infection

Fractures and osteoporosis, a condition wherein bones become thinner Wheeziness

Instead, try these safe and inexpensive natural treatments:23

Rest well: effectively combat fatigue caused by psoriatic arthritis by getting enough sleep. Establish a routine to make sure that you sleep and wake up at the same times every day. If you can’t sleep, you can take a warm soothing bath, sniff lavender essential oil or keep your bedroom’s temperature at 60 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

Care for your joints: your joints are the areas most affected by psoriatic arthritis, so you have to keep them in optimal shape. If you have stiff joints and muscles, use a heating pad or take a soothing and warm bath to loosen them up. On the other hand, placing ice or cold packs on joints can help soothe the pain.

In the meantime, when pushing doors or lifting heavy objects, use your entire hand instead of just a few fingers. When you’re opening bottles or jars, utilize assistive devices so that you do not strain your fingers.

Keep on moving by exercising: all types of arthritis patients will surely benefit from a few minutes of exercise. Physical activity can assist in strengthening muscles, increasing flexibility and helping maintain healthy weight to prevent further stress on the joints and muscles.

For intense arthritis pain, exercising in a pool is helpful, since the water assists in building joint strength, without exerting stress on your joints and muscles. Stretches and range-of-motion exercises can also be helpful when done during a 10-minute interval. Just make sure to consult a physician, physical therapist or trainer to know the exercises that are best for you.

Maintain a proper diet: what you eat plays a big role in relieving pain caused by psoriatic arthritis and preventing the condition from severely affecting you in the future. Eat as much real food as you can: unrestricted amounts of fresh and organic vegetables, high quantities of healthy fats and moderate portions of high-quality protein.

Don’t scrimp on omega-3 fatty acids from wild Alaskan salmon, sardines, anchovies and herring either. These fats are helpful for people with psoriatic arthritis since the body transforms these omega-3s into anti-inflammatory chemicals.

Feel free to incorporate turmeric, a yellow spice typically used in Indian cuisine, into some of your favorite dishes as well. Aside from having exceptional flavor, turmeric was proven to be effective against various types of arthritis as it reduces levels of certain enzymes in the body that trigger inflammation.24

In itself, psoriatic arthritis is a debilitating double whammy because it is a combination of a frustrating skin condition and an intense joint pain. However, just like many other types of arthritis, with proper knowledge and care about the disease, you can alleviate the pain that goes with it and get your life back on track.

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