Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is an autoimmune arthritis, also often referred to as inflammatory arthritis, which affects over 8 million US residents and 125 million people across the globe. Symptoms can vary depending on the person, with a broad range of illnesses spanning from bothersome to debilitating. Though there are both similarities and differences, as a disease, PsA falls into the same category as rheumatoid arthritis.
Among people who have psoriasis, an autoimmune condition that causes inflammation, cell overgrowth and accumulations of scaly plaques on the skin, between 20% and 30% will develop additional symptoms. Though some people with PsA will not also have psoriasis, that's pretty rare and most people who have PsA will also have at least some small amount of psoriatic lesions on their skin.
Psoriatic arthritis is related to psoriasis and as we said, usually co-occurrent, but PsA causes painful inflammation and destruction in the joints, usually those on the hands, arms, and legs, but it can also affect the shoulders, hips and even the spine. This co-occurrence is why many dermatologists when diagnosing psoriasis, will send their patients for examination by a rheumatologist right from the start.
Some sufferers experience systemic inflammation that can affect other organs like the heart and intestines so treatment and management are incredibly important. People with psoriatic arthritis are at higher risk of suffering from heart disease, inflammation of the eyes, osteoporosis, structural problems with the fingernails and inflammatory bowel disease. Depending on the severity, symptoms can be debilitating and life-altering.
Sufferers might feel discouraged when symptoms first flare-up, but there are numerous prescriptions on the market that may reduce impact with proper management. These medications do come with side effects, such as immune system impairment and damage to bone health, but people with moderate to severe illness may find the benefits worth the risks.
As an autoimmune condition, PsA should be managed by a rheumatologist who can provide a number of options to help control symptoms.
Improving diet and exercise may also make a difference for some. According to Healthline, reducing inflammatory foods like sugars and animal fats while increasing fruit, vegetable and healthy fat intake might make an overall difference. People who smoke, drink heavily or carry excess weight might consider making lifestyle choices that can improve their overall health and potentially reduce the frequency and severity of symptoms.
Staying active and moving slowly when the need arises may also help. Water aerobics is a great way to get in cardio and strength training without putting too much stress on painful joints. Resistance bands and light weights are also good, low-stress options for building muscle.
Autoimmune diseases like psoriatic arthritis can be life-changing, but with a healthy lifestyle and the right treatment options, and some key supports in place, many find ways to cope and take back a measure of health. People who suspect they may suffer from this condition should see a doctor for a referral to a rheumatologist. Earlier interventions might be key in improving long-term outcomes.
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