Did you know that if you suffer from Psoriasis, you have a 1 in 3 chance of developing Psoriatic Arthritis (PsA)? These common conditions come from the same issue – your immune system attacks your healthy tissues and joints, causing a psoriatic rash alongside swelling, pain and stiffness of the joints. Mild Psoriatic Arthritis usually affects 1-2 joints, but the more severe cases can attack the whole body and without treatment leave you with permanent joint damage and deformity. If you’re concerned you might have PsA, or have recently been diagnosed, this is the ultimate guide to Psoriatic Arthritis, with all of the latest research and information you need.
On average, it takes between 5-10 years after your initial diagnosis of Psoriasis to develop Psoriatic Arthritis, if you’re the 1 in 3 people who do. At that time, the first symptoms you might experience include stiffness, pain and swelling in your joints. Particularly you would feel this in the knees, toes, fingers and lower back. Regular symptoms of established PsA include:
The nature of auto-immune disorders means that although this is a chronic condition, you are likely to experience periods of less symptoms (remission) and periods of more severe symptoms (flare-ups). Medication and other treatments will be able to help keep these periods stabilised, but it’s important to keep your medical team informed of any changes.
Despite ongoing research, we still have no idea why some people develop Psoriatic Arthritis and others do not. There are certain risk factors that seem to be at play, including:
If you already have a diagnosis of Psoriasis, your doctor may have informed you about the chances of developing Psoriatic Arthritis in the future. If you have been experiencing the symptoms as described above, particularly swollen and painful joints, it is imperative that you contact a physician as soon as possible. As with all arthritic conditions, early diagnosis and treatment give you the best chance of maintaining a good quality of life.
Your doctor will likely refer you to a Rheumatologist. This is a doctor that specialises in disorders of the joints. So, what can you expect from a visit to a Rheumatology specialist?
If you receive a positive diagnosis of Psoriatic Arthritis, rest assured that you will be in good hands. Your doctor is part of a team of specialists who have a great understanding of the treatment plans available. They will talk you through this, and feel free to ask questions at any time.
Untreated, Psoriatic Arthritis can cause a range of other symptoms, including stomach problems, heart and lung problems and even Metabolic Syndrome, so it’s vital you get checked out if you have any concerns.
Your treatment for Psoriatic Arthritis will be individualised for you alone. Auto-immune disorders affect people on a very personal and unique level and close monitoring of your symptoms and condition will be required. Being an active patient will help you take back control.
With PsA, your doctor will attempt to provide one medication only for both your Psoriasis and the accompanying Arthritic symptoms. There are a number of medications, some traditional and a lot that are new, but all which have been thoroughly tried and tested. Side effects are common with any medication, but your doctor will provide all of the information you need on anything you are prescribed. These could include:
Although your doctor will be able to expertly manage your medications, there are lots of ways you can help in your treatment plan. Learning to manage your symptoms and maintain your quality of life will help you in the long-term. There are several ways you can start to do this.
Exercise is always recommended. Whilst you might not be able to do the activities you once enjoyed all the time due to flare-ups; low-impact exercise offers a benefit to your symptoms. Keeping active however you can will help to maintain your joints, reduce stress and promote good movement.
Alongside exercise, eating a healthy, balanced diet low in sugar, fat and salt, can help. Arthritic conditions can become worse if you are overweight, so it might be time to change your lifestyle and include more fresh, natural foods in your daily meals.
Your skin also needs as much protection as you can provide. Ensure you get into the habit of moisturising every day- after warm baths, swimming, in the morning and at night.
Looking after your mental health is also very important. Stress can exacerbate chronic pain conditions and finding ways to alleviate anxiety in your life can improve your symptoms. Meditation, counselling, establishing a support network and reaching out to services when you are feeling overwhelmed are all recommended. Living with a chronic condition like Psoriatic Arthritis can be scary, lonely and leave you without hope. But you can get through it and getting help does not mean you are failing.
Psoriatic Arthritis unfortunately affects 30% of people with Psoriasis and as such is very common. Getting a diagnosis as soon as possible is very important. Working with your doctor and clinical team to work out a treatment plan will allow you to maintain a good quality of life. Being an active patient and changing your habits and lifestyle will give you a fighting chance at stabilising your symptoms. Reach out to your friends, family and experts, keep up to date with the latest research and never give up.