Psoriatic arthritis is a long-standing inflammatory disorder that affects three out of every 10 people with psoriasis. It cannot be cured, but some treatments may prevent it from worsening. It usually affects the joints of the knees, fingers, toes, ankles and lower back. If left untreated, a severe form of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis may set in. The condition can affect your joints so badly that it can cripple you and lead to disability.
It is important to treat your psoriasis well to prevent psoriatic arthritis from developing. Over time, psoriatic arthritis may permanently damage your joints. The damage can be so extensive that it can result in clearly visible deformities in the small joints such as the fingers and toes. The pain can limit your routine activities. When you cannot perform your daily tasks and physical activities, your joints may become stiff, and your muscles may become weak.
Apart from joint problems, psoriatic arthritis also makes you more likely to have other conditions, including
- Anemia (a low red blood cell count)
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
Some people may develop psoriatic arthritis even before they develop psoriasis skin lesions. Some people might not develop psoriasis at all before or after developing psoriatic arthritis. Currently, there is no way to predict whose psoriatic arthritis may destroy their joints. Whatever be the case, good treatments can help improve the quality of life of people with psoriatic arthritis.
How do doctors treat psoriatic arthritis?
There is no cure for psoriatic arthritis. However, you can certainly expect to reduce the severity of its signs and symptoms. It is ideal to consult with a rheumatologist who is a doctor who specializes in treating the condition of the bones, joints, ligaments and tendons affected by the immune system. By looking at your medical history and existing signs and symptoms, the rheumatologist will design a customized plan that involves
- Occupational therapy
- Devices to support the joints
Medications play a very important role in reducing swelling and pain, preventing relapses and reducing the risk of further joint damage.
Medication for rapid relief of pain and swelling
Stronger medicines for psoriatic arthritis include
- Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs)
- Biologics (tumor necrosis factor alpha [TNF-α] inhibitors)
- Newer drugs
Medications used for treating inflammation in psoriatic arthritis and psoriasis can also help stave off other anti-inflammatory conditions such as hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol), heart disease and diabetes.
There may be an initial trial-and-error period when beginning treatment for psoriatic arthritis. With effective treatments, you can likely expect a major improvement in your joint pain and swelling within a year. Evidence suggests that nearly six out of 10 people with psoriatic arthritis can attain remission after taking biologic drugs for a year.
As advised by your doctor, remember to continue taking the drugs despite a dramatic relief in symptoms. A disease-free period does not mean that psoriatic arthritis is cured. Stopping treatment can lead to a recurrence of the previous signs and symptoms within a few months.
Orthotic devices such as braces and splints can help you manage your daily activities with comfort and ease.
Massage, occupational therapy and physiotherapy can help relieve pain and stiffness and help restore joint mobility.
Get adequate rest when you suffer from extremely painful joints due to the condition.
When the above measures fail to provide you with adequate relief from psoriatic arthritis, surgeries that help repair the joints may be the only remaining option.
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