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Arthritis health centre

Coping with psoriatic arthritis


WebMD Medical Reference
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

The aching joints and draining fatigue of psoriatic arthritis can affect all aspects of a person's everyday life.

Get tips on coping with psoriatic arthritis.

Psoriatic arthritis: Symptoms can change

Around one in five people with psoriasis develop psoriatic arthritis. Like other forms of arthritis this condition results in painful, swollen joints and, if not treated early, can lead to severe joint damage.

Psoriatic arthritis symptoms can vary in intensity among people or even in the same person over time. Symptoms can come and go, sometimes seemingly on a whim. This aspect of the disease can make it incredibly difficult to manage.

Experiencing at unpredictable moments not being able to walk or finding that your hands just don’t work in the middle of something is hard.

Psoriatic arthritis triggers

There is no doubt about it: psoriatic arthritis can take a toll on your emotional and physical health, from the embarrassment you might feel about your skin lesions to your swollen joints and other painful symptoms.

Although much about psoriatic arthritis remains unknown, studies have discovered that there are some possible triggers behind flare-ups, including:

  • Too much alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Stress

Stress definitely seems to play an important role in the onset and severity of both psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis symptoms. Although doctors aren’t sure why some people with psoriasis get psoriatic arthritis, evidence suggests that the more severe the psoriasis, the more likely you are to develop psoriatic arthritis.

However, don’t be discouraged, with the right treatment the vast majority of people with psoriatic arthritis do find relief and a reduction of their symptoms

Coping with psoriatic arthritis: Get medical help

If you have psoriasis and also have any of the symptoms of psoriatic arthritis, one of the most important first steps is to get the medical help you need.

Start by talking to your GP. They can then identify the right treatments to address your unique needs, and refer you to a specialist such as a rheumatologist or physiotherapist if necessary.

Coping with psoriatic arthritis: Healthy lifestyle

Though exercise might be the last thing you feel like doing with your sore and swollen joints, regular physical activity may actually make it easier to cope with psoriatic arthritis symptoms.

It is a common misconception that patients think they will hurt their joints if they exercise. Many studies regarding exercise and arthritis show positive results.

A regular exercise programme may help alleviate stiffness and strengthen the muscles that surround your inflamed or damaged joints. Stretching and resistance exercises can help improve the range of motion of affected joints.
There are exceptions, of course, like running hard on an extremely inflamed knee or ankle. In general, consistent aerobic conditioning yields positive results, leading to stronger muscles around joints, emotional wellbeing, and less disability.  Yoga and tai chi may be helpful.

Finally, exercising and eating a healthy diet also helps you maintain a healthy body weight, reducing joint stress.

Yet even with the healthiest intentions, you may sometimes find your psoriatic arthritis symptoms get in the way of eating healthily, and exercising. Don’t be deterred, try these tips:

  • If your swollen joints don’t fit in traditional exercise trainers, look for shoes with extra room in the toe for added comfort. Shoe inserts, including orthotics or heel pads, may also make exercising more comfortable 
  • If you can’t find a way to exercise that doesn’t hurt, ask your GP whether physiotherapy is right for you. A physiotherapist can help you design an exercise program that works with, not against, your psoriatic arthritis 
  • If your psoriatic arthritis is making your hands stiff and painful, or if you’re feeling extremely fatigued, the idea of making a healthy meal can be overwhelming. Make sure you have healthy options, like healthy frozen meals or pre-cut fruit and veg, on hand, so your diet won’t suffer when your psoriatic arthritis symptoms get you down

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