Psoriatic Arthritis: Signs, Symptoms and Treatment

skin and joint pain

Story at-a-glance -

  • Psoriatic arthritis typically develops about five to 12 years after first having psoriasis, and it occurs in 7 to 42 percent of people who have 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: The Agonizing Duo of Skin and Joint Pain

Aside from irritating your skin, psoriasis can also target another 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 before being diagnosed with the arthritis, but the joint problems already exist before the first lesions appear.2

Psoriatic arthritis typically develops between five and 12 years after first having psoriasis,3 and it occurs between roughly 7 and 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 discernible 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 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

Shoulders

Neck13

Ankles

Eyes (uveitis; psoriatic arthritis may trigger this eye condition14)

Psoriatic arthritis symptoms are said to be similar to those experienced by people with rheumatoid arthritis.15 According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, most common hallmarks of psoriatic arthritis include:16

Fatigue

Tendon pain, swelling and tenderness

Swollen fingers and toes

Joint pain and stiffness, throbbing, swelling and tenderness in one or more joints

Decreased range of motion

Morning stiffnes and tiredness

Separation of nail from the nail bed causing it to become pitted or mimic fungus

Eye redness and pain

How to Diagnose Psoriatic Arthritis

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

  • Searching for indicators of swelling or tenderness on the joint
  • Checking of fingernails to determine presence of pitting, flaking and other symptoms
  • Looking for tender areas in your feet by pressing on the soles and around the heels

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.17

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. Meanwhile, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be considered to look for foot problems particularly in the tendons and ligaments, as well as lower back issues. Aside from these imaging tests, the following laboratory tests may also be conducted:18

  • Rheumatoid factor (RF): This test’s main purpose is to look for quantities of the RF antibody in the blood. This particular antibody is present in rheumatoid arthritis patients, but not among people with psoriatic arthritis. With an RF test, your doctor can determine if you have rheumatoid arthritis or psoriatic arthritis.
  • Joint fluid test: This entails your physician using a needle to get a small sample of fluid from an affected joint (usually the knee) and check if uric acid crystals are present in it. If there are uric acid crystals in the fluid, this means that the patient gout and not psoriatic arthritis.

How to Treat Psoriatic Arthritis

Conventional treatment protocols for psoriatic arthritis include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroids, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and biologics.19 However, you’re better off without these pharmaceutical drugs, as they have been linked to various negative side effects, such as:20,21,22,23

NSAIDs Corticosteroids (whether oral, inhaled, topical or injected) DMARDs Biologics

Upset stomach

Glaucoma, or elevated eye pressure

Upset stomach

Allergic reactions

Nausea

Cataracts, or clouding of the lens in one or both of your eyes

Skin rashes

Diarrhea

Vomiting

Fluid retention and swelling in your legs

Headaches

Nausea, headaches or fever

GI bleeding

Weight gain

Dizziness

Vomiting

Cardiovascular or kidney problems

Higher infection risk

Sore throat

High blood glucose levels

Hypertension24

Increased blood sugar levels

Unexplained bruises, bleeding or paleness

Muscle, abdominal and back pain

Death

Formation of red lesions

Indicators of infection/s

Low blood pressure levels

Fractures and osteoporosis, a condition wherein bones become thinner

Wheeziness

Bleeding

Instead, try these safe and inexpensive natural treatments:25

Rest well: Effectively combat fatigue and inflammation caused by psoriatic arthritis by getting enough sleep. Establish a routine that’ll help you sleep and wake up at the same times every day.26 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 sore joints, try using a heating pack or take a soothing and warm bath to loosen them up. On the other hand, placing ice or cold packs or frozen vegetables on joints can help soothe the pain.27

In the meantime, Dr. April Chang-Miller, a rheumatologist for Mayo Clinic, recommends using your whole body when opening or pushing doors, using both hands instead of just fingers when lifting heavy objects, and utilizing assistive devices when opening bottles or jars.28

Keep on moving by exercising: Low-impact activity can assist in strengthening joint muscles, increasing range of motion, promoting better sleep, alleviating stress29 and helping maintain healthy weight to prevent further stress on the joints and muscles.30

If you have psoriatic arthritis, exercising in a pool may assist with boosting body function and cardiovascular health, without the risk of exacerbating your condition. Stretches and range-of-motion exercises may also be beneficial in ensuring that joints remain functional and flexible, and in helping inhibit morning stiffness.31

Other good examples of low-impact exercises to try if you have psoriatic arthritis include yoga or tai chi. Just make sure to consult a physician, physical therapist or trainer to know the exercises that are best for you and have yourself checked for proper form constantly.32

Maintain a proper diet: 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 too. Aside from having exceptional flavor, turmeric was proven to be effective against psoriatic arthritis because of its potential anti-inflammatory capabilities.33

Psoriatic arthritis is a debilitating double whammy because it is a combination of a frustrating skin condition with intense joint pain. However, with proper knowledge and care you can alleviate the pain that goes with it and get your life back on track.

MORE ABOUT PSORIASIS

Psoriasis: Introduction

What Is Psoriasis?

Psoriasis In Children

Psoriasis Versus Eczema

Psoriatic Arthritis

Is Psoriasis Contagious?

Psoriasis Causes

Psoriasis Types

Psoriasis Symptoms

Psoriasis Treatment

Psoriasis Prevention

Psoriasis Diet

Celebrities With Psoriasis

Psoriasis FAQ

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