If you have psoriasis, you may think getting psoriatic arthritis is unavoidable. While it’s true that about one third of people with psoriasis will eventually develop psoriatic arthritis, there are a lot of new, effective treatments available to alleviate symptoms.
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What is psoriatic arthritis?
Psoriatic arthritis is a form of inflammatory arthritis. Both psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis are chronic autoimmune diseases (conditions in which certain cells of the body attack other cells).
“In people who psoriatic arthritis, their own immune cells attack their joints as well as their skin,” says rheumatologist and psoriatic arthritis specialist Elaine Husni, MD, MPH, director of Cleveland Clinic’s Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Treatment Center.
Types of psoriatic arthritis
There are five types of psoriatic arthritis:
- Symmetric (most common): Affects the same joints on both sides of the body
- Asymmetric: Affects only one side of the body
- Distal Interphalangeal Predominant (DIP): Affects the distal (closest to the nail) joints in the fingers (the fingertips)
- Spondylitis: Affects the spine
- Arthritis mutilans: A rare but severe, destructive form of psoriatic arthritis that primarily affects the fingers and toes, but can also affect the neck and back
Some people will develop more than one type or switch from one type to another.
When to see a doctor
“If you have joint pain and joint swelling that lasts for more than six weeks with no associated injuries, it’s time so see a rheumatologist, especially if you have psoriasis,” says Dr. Husni.
Developing joint pain several years after being diagnosed with psoriasis may also be an indication of psoriatic arthritis. “The majority of people with psoriasis usually have the skin disease for about 10 years before developing psoriatic arthritis,” Dr. Husni says. “However, 10 to 15 percent of people who have both get them both at the same time.”
Psoriatic arthritis treatments
The FDA recently approved several new drugs to treat psoriatic arthritis. “These new drugs are effective for all types of psoriatic arthritis,” says Dr. Husni. “We’re excited to have them because we now have better treatment options to offer our patients.”
In addition to taking medications, there are other things you can do to feel better. Changes in lifestyle can help you manage your symptoms. “Maintaining a normal weight and body mass index puts less pressure on your joints, which helps your medications to work better,” says Dr. Husni.
“Exercise also helps because the more you move your joints, the better they are able to meet the demands of your daily life. Getting enough sleep promotes better healing, and good nutrition will help give you optimal energy.” Dr. Husni says.
Although good nutrition will help manage your symptoms, it is not a cure for psoriatic arthritis. “There’s no particular vitamin or food that can make psoriatic arthritis go away,” Dr. Husni says. “I recommend eating a well-balanced diet.”
Things to avoid
Repetitive motions, such as typing for long periods of time, can make psoriatic arthritis worse. “You don’t have to quit your job if you’re required to type all day,” says Dr. Husni. “Just try to interject periods of rest in a consistent manner.”
Excess inflammation from psoriatic arthritis can also accelerate heart disease. So in addition to maintaining a healthy weight, it’s important to limit other cardiac risk factors. These include: not smoking; controlling your diabetes, blood pressure and cholesterol; and maintaining an active lifestyle, especially if you are diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis.