Inflamed joints and itchy, scaly skin — when the going gets tough, you might be in need of psoriatic arthritis treatment.
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In this article:
- What Is Psoriatic Arthritis?
- What Are the First Signs of Psoriatic Arthritis?
- Who Can Suffer from Psoriatic Arthritis?
- What Causes Psoriatic Arthritis?
- What Are the Types of Psoriatic Arthritis?
- How Is Psoriatic Arthritis Diagnosed?
- What Are the Different Psoriatic Arthritis Treatment Options?
- What Are the Natural Management Options for Symptoms of Psoriatic Arthritis?
- What Are the Foods for Psoriatic Arthritis?
- Which Diet Plans Are Suitable for Psoriatic Arthritis?
Must-Know Information About Psoriatic Arthritis
What Is Psoriatic Arthritis?
Psoriatic arthritis is a kind of arthritis that may manifest itself to people suffering from psoriasis. The condition usually causes the affected joints to become stiff, inflamed, and painful.
While psoriasis mostly affects the skin, many psoriasis patients also develop inflammatory arthritis or psoriatic arthritis. Like psoriasis on the skin, psoriatic arthritis causes the immune system to identify healthy cells as invaders, attacking them.
This may lead to inflammation in the affected area. It may also cause stiffness, swelling, and joint pain.
Similar to psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis is considered a long-term condition which may get progressively worse. Severe cases may cause joints to become permanently damaged or deformed.
Early diagnosis and the right treatment may slow down progress and prevent further damage.
What Are the First Signs of Psoriatic Arthritis?
Psoriatic arthritis commonly develops years after unmanaged psoriasis. Early symptoms usually include:
- Swelling in the ankles, knees, hands, and feet
- Stiffness and pain from the buttocks, lower back, upper back, and neck because of the inflammation in the hip bones or joints of the spine
- Difficulty walking or climbing the stairs
- Ridges and pitting toe and fingernails
- Painful eyesight and inflamed iris
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
Note that some of these symptoms are similar to that of rheumatoid arthritis and your doctor may need to prescribe more tests to get an accurate diagnosis.
Who Can Suffer from Psoriatic Arthritis?
The following are at risk of developing psoriatic arthritis:
- People with existing psoriatic conditions
- With a family history of psoriatic arthritis
- Men and women between the ages of 30-50
What Causes Psoriatic Arthritis?
Psoriatic arthritis, much like psoriasis, is an autoimmune disease which occurs when the body attacks its own parts. In this condition, the tendons and joints are considered “foreign objects.”
And much like other autoimmune diseases, the cause of psoriatic arthritis is unknown. But, genes, environment, and one’s immune system may play a role.
Plus, there are triggers which vary from case to case, and even in every patient. Here are some common triggers that cause psoriatic arthritis:
- Skin Trauma/Injury – Dry skin, sunburn, cuts, scratches, scrapes, bruises, and infections can trigger flare-ups. This is because the immune system leaps into action once it senses invaders entering the body.
- Stress – Anxiety and stress can cause an immune response which can trigger flare-ups.
- Alcohol – Besides triggering flare-ups, alcohol can also interfere with psoriatic arthritis medications.
- Certain Medicines – Beta-blockers for high blood pressure and heart conditions, antimalarial drugs and lithium are some medications that can be triggering. This is because they interfere with the autoimmune response of the body.
- Being Overweight – Excess weight can cause stress to the joints, leading to more pain and inflammation. Psoriasis can also develop in the skin folds of those who are overweight or obese.
- Gluten – According to research, gluten can aggravate the symptoms of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.
- Infection – Common infections such as strep throat, thrush, colds, and upper respiratory infections can trigger flare-ups.
What Are the Types of Psoriatic Arthritis?
Making up to 50% of the cases of psoriatic arthritis, the symmetric type mars joints on both sides of the body. The pain also usually occurs at the same time and is very similar to rheumatoid arthritis.
Appearing in about 35% of patients, the asymmetric type is often milder than the symmetric type. Being asymmetric, it doesn’t occur on the same joints on opposite sides of the body.
This type of psoriatic arthritis is characterized by stiffness and pain along the spine and neck.
This affects the ends of toes and fingers, causing inflammation, stiffness, and pain. It can also cause white spots and pitting in fingernails and toenails, as well as lifting them off the nail bed.
5. Arthritis Mutilans
This type of psoriatic arthritis affects only 5% of patients but is the most severe of all types. It results in pain at the joints at the ends of toes and fingers, causing deformities and damage.
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How Is Psoriatic Arthritis Diagnosed?
The doctor will assess symptoms and medical history apart from lab test results:
- Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate gives an idea of the amount of inflammation present in your body, which could come about because of psoriatic arthritis.
- Rheumatoid factor and anti-CCP antibody tests help differentiate rheumatoid arthritis from psoriatic arthritis.
- X-ray and bone density assess bone loss, which is one of the symptoms of psoriatic arthritis.
What Are the Different Psoriatic Arthritis Treatment Options?
Psoriatic arthritis treatment involves managing the joint inflammation as well as the skin condition.
- Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) aim to reduce inflammation and relieve pain. Examples of these are naproxen, ibuprofen, and diclofenac.
- For a single swollen or inflamed joint, the doctor may inject corticosteroids directly. Oral tablets are also available. Consult your doctor prior to starting and ceasing the intake of steroidal medications.
- Disease-Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs (DMARDs) are best taken earlier and can take several weeks or even months to start working. Examples of these include leflunomide, sulfasalazine, and methotrexate.
- Biological medications like abatacept, adalimumab, and etanercept work by stopping certain chemicals in your blood from activating the immune system to attack the lining of your joints.
- Joint surgery is often used as a last resort when none of the other treatments have worked. Synovectomy removes the diseased lining of the joint. Joint replacement, on the other hand, may be needed for extensive damage. Replacements are usually made of metal or plastic.
- Immunosuppressants – These work to suppress an overactive immune system.
- Tumor Necrosis Factor Alpha (TNF-Alpha) – These work as inhibitors that lower molecule tumor necrosis factor that triggers inflammation resulting in stiffness, pain, and swollen joints.
What Are the Natural Management Options for Symptoms of Psoriatic Arthritis?
- Exercise. Ask a doctor what exercises are safe for you to do. Low impact activities such as swimming, walking or biking are all good examples.
- Hot and Cold Compress. Moist heat can help relax painful muscles and relieve joint pain and stiffness. You can incorporate this treatment via a hot pack, warm towel, and a warm shower or bath. Coldness can help ease swelling and pain. The treatment can be applied by a bag of ice wrapped in a towel.
- Assistive Devices. Grab bars, canes, and luggage carts can help give you move around. Consult an occupational therapist or physiotherapist for help.
- Diet. One of the best ways to manage psoriatic arthritis is to lead a healthy lifestyle and eat a healthy diet. Certain foods have the ability to help reduce inflammation, while others exacerbate it.
What Are the Foods for Psoriatic Arthritis?
Here are some foods that should be avoided:
- Processed foods
- Sugary drinks
- Simple carbohydrates (Ex.: white bread, white rice, candy)
- Fried foods
These foods are usually high in gluten and sugar, but very low in nutrients which can actually benefit the body.
Here are foods that can benefit patients with psoriatic arthritis:
- Seeds and Nuts
Natural foods contain beneficial nutrients such as healthy fats and antioxidants that help in reducing inflammation and reigning in an irregular immune system.
Which Diet Plans Are Suitable for Psoriatic Arthritis?
There are multiple diets available out there, each of them built for various types of people and their dietary needs. Here are some which suit the psoriatic arthritis diet:
1. Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Inflammation is the primary symptom of psoriatic arthritis, so this is a good diet for psoriatic arthritis. Eating mostly food items rich in anti-inflammatory properties are a priority with this diet:
- Fatty fish such as salmon and tuna
- Dark, leafy greens such as spinach and kale
- Fruits with antioxidants like berries
2. Paleo Diet
Otherwise known as the caveman diet, this diet involves avoiding nuts, grains, dairy, and processed foods. Common staples include generous helpings of fruits, vegetables, meats like fish, chicken, and beef, which are foods cavemen are believed to have eaten.
The paleo diet makes for a good psoriatic arthritis diet because it eliminates processed foods, sugar, and dairy, which can cause inflammation.
3. Weight Loss Diet
This involves an active weight loss slant. It’s a good psoriatic arthritis diet because weight loss can help lessen the load on joints. And if there’s less load on joints, there is less pressure and inflammation.
4. Gluten-Free Diet
Psoriasis can be worsened by gluten, so eating a gluten-free diet is recommended for those with psoriatic arthritis. Several patients have markedly strong gluten sensitivities, which results in inflammation once they eat barley and wheat.
Gluten is a common ingredient in many processed foods, which are also not the healthiest. Staying away from gluten also helps encourage patients to turn to more natural food alternatives like fruits and vegetables.
Supplementing can also be a great plus in psoriatic arthritis diets. These include:
- Ginger – A natural, anti-inflammatory agent. Incorporating ginger into foods and drinks, or drinking supplements can be enough to reap its benefits.
- Turmeric – A relative of ginger, and has similar anti-inflammatory properties.
- Capsaicin – Known as the chemical responsible for making spicy foods spicy, it can help block pain receptors. This reduces pain, as well as help reduce the occurrence of psoriasis.
- Fish Oil – These supplements are rich in omega-3 fats, which are famous for helping reduce inflammation and swelling in the joints.
- BPC – Dr. Seeds Body Protective Complex can help increases collagen synthesis, repair damaged connective tissues, and decrease inflammation.
Thinking of a weight loss diet for your psoriatic arthritis? Include this recipe in your diet!
Psoriatic arthritis may sound severe and debilitating, but its triggers can be easily managed by making the right choices in treatment and lifestyle. Remember to always consult your doctor or primary health care provider before undergoing any lifestyle, medication, or diet shift.
Do you suffer from psoriatic arthritis? How did you manage it? Share your experiences with us in the comments section below!
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Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on December 7, 2018, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.