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Psoriatic Arthritis - Symptoms and Treatment

Psoriatic arthritis, also known as arthritis psoriatica, arthropathic psoriasis, or psoriatic arthropathy, affects both the skin and joints. The forthcoming passages elucidate on the symptoms and treatment of this medical condition.
Rita Putatunda
Arthritis psoriatica is a condition wherein an individual is afflicted with both psoriasis as well as arthritis. Psoriasis is characterized by silvery patches on the skin that are raised and scaly. Arthritis, on the other hand, is a condition in which the joints get inflamed and swollen, and the person suffers from excruciating pain.
Although initially much misunderstood, scientists now agree that psoriatic arthritis belongs to the category of autoimmune diseases. An autoimmune disease is a condition in which the antibodies and cells, that form a part of the immune system, attack its own tissues. Although it is rare, but sometimes there are cases where people exhibit arthritis psoriatica symptoms without showing any signs of psoriasis. However, in general, the more severely the symptoms of the skin condition are manifested, the higher are the chances that an individual will have arthritis psoriatica. According to estimations, about 8 percent of the people who get psoriasis also develop arthritis.
According to some estimations, about 2.5 percent or around 1 million adults of the white population in the United States are afflicted by arthropathic psoriasis, and it affects about 5 to 8 percent of all the individuals who have psoriasis. This condition is less prevalent amongst darker-skinned people, such as Native Americans and African Americans. Also, about half the incidences of rheumatoid arthritis include arthropathic psoriasis as well. Although psoriasis can manifest itself at any age, it usually occurs between the age of 35 to 55 years. Both women and men are equally susceptible to it.
Symptoms Observed
  • Primarily, arthritis affects the small joints of the limbs that are in the fingers and toes. The nails of the fingers and toes are also usually affected in about 80 percent of the people with this condition. Small pits or holes appear on the nails.
  • Another distinctive characteristic is that, unlike rheumatoid arthritis, it does not occur symmetrically, which means that it does not manifest itself evenly on the joints of both sides of the body.
  • This disorder can also be manifested as arthritis mutilans, which is a particularly ravaging and deforming type of arthritis.
  • Apart from the joints, arthritis also affects the tendons, ligaments, and fascia, and it has a tendency of being more severe when an individual has pustular psoriasis. Often, it manifests itself on the skin first followed by the development of arthritis.
  • The inflammation manifests in the tissues and joints of the hands and feet by causing dactylitis, wherein the digits become like sausages. In those who get arthritis mutilans, it may seem that the joints are dissolved, and it results in an excessive growth of skin overlying them.
  • In 5 percent of the cases with psoriatic arthropathy, the upper portion of the cervical spine gets affected, which is a condition more commonly seen in men. Sometimes, this joint disorder also affects the eyes causing an inflammation in the area.
Treatment Options
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, like ibuprofen and aspirin are usually recommended when treating mild forms of psoriatic arthropathy. These help in controlling swelling, pain, and stiffness in the morning. However, NSAIDs usually irritate the lining of the stomach and intestine, and their usage over a long period of time can cause bleeding and ulcers in the gastrointestinal tract. Some of the other side effects of NSAIDs which may occur are: kidney damage, retention of fluid in the body, and even heart failure. Plus, generally, NSAIDs do not have a palliative effect on psoriasis. However, these medications may be helpful for those who want to cope with the problem of stiffness and pain. In any case, it is highly advisable to consult your physician before taking any drugs, including aspirin, to relieve yourself from the pain of arthritis.
Those who are affected by arthropathic psoriasis can do a lot for themselves in order to manage this painful and debilitating condition:
Taking Care of Your Skin
A daily bath is helpful for removing the scaly skin of psoriasis. However, care must be taken to avoid harsh soaps and hot water. After the bath or shower, pat your body dry with a soft towel, and apply a moisturizing lotion or cream, recommended by a physician, while the skin is still moist. Avoid using lotions or creams that contain alcohol.
Exposing Skin to Moderate Amounts of Sunlight
Since sunlight inhibits the growth of cells, it is recommended to expose the skin to moderate amounts of it. However, care must be taken to not expose the skin for longer than around twenty minutes at a time. Overexposure can lead to sunburn, which can actually exacerbate the psoriatic skin.
Eating a Nutritious Diet
Although no particular nutrient or food has been found that prevents or controls arthritis, many are considered to be quite promising. For instance, antioxidants like vitamins A, C, and E are thought to be helpful in preventing cell damage, which may be a contributory factor for arthritis. It has been shown that a diet rich in vegetables and olive oil is helpful in alleviating the symptoms of psoriatic arthropathy. Fresh vegetables are rich in phytochemicals and antioxidants, which are considered to be very healthy. Olive oil contains a high amount of vitamin E. Also, consuming foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, found in cold water fish, like salmon, herring, and mackerel, is helpful in reducing the inflammation of joints.
Avoiding Certain Suspect Foods
It is generally thought that certain foods, like red meat, citrus fruits, and vegetables and fruits that belong to the nightshade family, such as tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplant, exacerbate arthritis. Although there is no scientific proof that links these foods with inflammation or joint pain, it is better to avoid certain foods that can aggravate the condition.
Controlling Weight
Apart from taking care of the food habits, it is particularly important to control weight in conditions like psoriatic arthritis in order to put less strain on the joints. This can help in reducing pain and increasing mobility and energy.
Exercising Regularly
Several studies have shown the beneficial effects of exercise, not only for healthy people, but also for those who suffer from arthritis psoriatica. It can help in reducing many of the enfeebling effects, like fatigue and pain of the disease. A well-designed exercise program can increase the flexibility of joints, reduce stiffness in the morning, and increase mobility. It also improves the mood and is good for controlling weight.
Please bear in mind that it is important to consult your doctor as well as listen to your own body when incorporating exercises. You should feel more energized and not worse after a workout session. Start exercising gradually, and listen to warning signs like pain. Never force your body to do anything that it is not ready for or simply cannot do. Take care!
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.