When you hear arthritis, you may picture stiff knee joints of gnarled hands, but another, less common version of the disease impacts people with the skin condition psoriasis.
Psoriatic arthritis, an inflammatory form of the joint disease, occurs in up to 30% of people with the skin condition psoriasis, according to John Magaldi, MD, chief of rheumatology at the Hartford HealthCare Bone & Joint Institute.
Here’s what you need to know about psoriatic arthritis and how to treat it.
Psoriasis is a skin condition that can appear anywhere on the body.
Psoriasis is characterized by a scaly red rash that can appear on any part of the body.
Symptoms can include:
Patchy rash – this can vary in color and appearance
Dry or cracked skin
Some common places the rash can occur include the scalp, inner ear, belly button, joints like knees or elbows, nails, or eyes.
Psoriasis usually precedes the arthritis, but not always.
“In about 60% of cases, the skin psoriasis can precede the arthritis, while 30% of the time, arthritis precedes the skin involvement,” Dr. Magaldi explains.
Luckily, there seems to be no correlation between the amount of skin impacted by psoriasis and the severity of psoriatic arthritis, he adds.
There are a number of medications that can help treat psoriatic arthritis.
Often, patients with psoriatic arthritis are treated by rheumatologists trained in the condition. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen or naproxen, prescription biologics like Enbrel, Humira or Cosentyx and topical gels can improve the skin.
“Some of these newer agents can lead to a complete clearing of the skin and significant improvement in joint pain while preventing joint damage,” Dr. Magaldi says.
These 5 lifestyle changes can also help.
In addition, lifestyle changes can ease the pain and spread of psoriatic arthritis. He suggests:
Maintaining an appropriate body weight.
Eating healthy foods.
Exercising regularly. This helps tone muscles, which serve as the main supportive structures of your joints. Doing so can improve function, balance and physical endurance,
Quitting smoking. Patients who smoke, Dr. Magaldi says, can have more exaggerated inflammation and worsening of the condition.
Modify stress. Feeling stressed can aggravate all autoimmune diseases by worsening the body’s immune and inflammatory response, he says.
When to see a doctor.
It can be challenging to find a source for joint pain and skin rash, so Dr. Magaldi urges people to remain hopeful and ask to speak with a specialist who might have more resources available to come to a diagnosis.
“In the past five to 10 years, there has been an explosion of new and extremely effective therapies that were unavailable early in my career,” Dr. Magaldi says.