Why every 1-in-3 psoriasis patients develop arthritis later

Symptoms of psoriatic arthritis include swollen or painful joints (typically in the knees, ankles, and feet), as well as swollen fingers or toes.

People with severe psoriasis are at a greater risk of developing psoriatic arthritis. In fact, one in three individuals with this skin disease will develop psoriatic arthritis within five to 10 years after being diagnosed with psoriasis.

In that regard, here are some of the shared similarities between both diseases, including their common cause, as well as ways to prevent and treat flare-ups of each disease.

The common relation between psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis

Psoriasis is a type of autoimmune disease which accelerates the growth of skin cells. This causes inflamed patches of skin which can itch or feel tender to the touch. The skin may also appear as a thick, red rash with silvery or white scales.

On the other hand, psoriatic arthritis is a disease that often occurs alongside psoriasis.

The symptoms of this rheumatic disease include swollen or painful joints (typically in the knees, ankles, and feet), swollen fingers or toes that appear like “sausages”, joint stiffness that is particularly severe in the morning, pitted nails, nails separating from the nail bed, or lower back pain.

This disease can also trigger other side effects such as fatigue and a decreased range of motion.

Together, both these diseases are referred to as psoriatic diseases. By definition, this means that there is no known method to completely stop its symptoms from occurring.

However, there are certain types of treatment options and lifestyle changes that can lower your risk of flare-ups and improve quality of life.

Why individuals with psoriasis can also develop psoriatic arthritis

Psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis do not necessarily project an onset of the other. And while both these diseases may produce distinct symptoms, both are caused by underlying problems with your immune system.

For psoriasis, an overactive immune system can cause your body’s skin cells to develop rapidly, triggering an inflammatory response that can cause skin conditions associated with the disease to develop.

Similarly, psoriatic arthritis is caused by triggering your immune system, which causes your body’s white blood cells to start targeting its healthy tissues instead of protecting itself against foreign substances. This results in an inflammatory response in your joints.

The effects of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis on individuals

Another similarity between both these diseases is that they are both chronic in nature, meaning that they are both progressive, long-term diseases which will worsen over time.

The most commonly known form of psoriasis is plaque psoriasis, which typically affects up to 90% of individuals suffering from the disease.

Plaque psoriasis commonly appears as red or pink plaques of raised, thick, scaly skin, but can sometimes also appear as small, flat bumps or large, thick plaques.

Meanwhile, psoriatic arthritis triggers inflammation in the joints, which can eventually lead to a gradual destruction of joint cartilage and bone.

If left untreated, psoriatic arthritis could result in twisted, painful, or swollen joints which may be permanently dysfunctional. (Rawpixel pic)

If left untreated, it could also result in twisted, painful, or swollen joints which may be permanently dysfunctional. What’s more, joint pain may either occur on only one side of the body or be widespread.

Additionally, having psoriatic disease can put you at an increased risk of other conditions which include obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and depression.

Treatment methods for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis

There are several ways in which both these psoriatic diseases can be treated. And while the symptoms may not be completely mitigated, they can be managed effectively using the right treatment methods which in turn can prevent flare-ups.

Given the fact that your lifestyle choices are what mainly trigger an inflammatory response, it is extremely important that you take the necessary measures to keep your immune system in check.

For some individuals, stress may be a risk factor for triggering a psoriatic flare-up. Therefore, incorporating stress management coping mechanisms such as breathing exercises, yoga, and meditation can help inhibit your symptoms from worsening.

In the same way, mild psoriatic arthritis flare-ups can be treated with over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen and naproxen, which are able to provide symptomatic relief.

A newer class of drugs, known as biologic drugs, is also available. These drugs target specific parts of the immune system more precisely and cause less severe side effects as compared to classic treatment alternatives such as methotrexate.

They also need to be administered lesser times as compared to medicines used to treat milder forms of psoriatic arthritis, which could be a determining factor as to why your healthcare provider may recommend them instead.

It is important to start treating psoriatic arthritis early in order to minimise joint damage. In stark contrast, ignoring symptoms of the disease can put you at a greater risk of other health problems.

Stay vigilant, and always be on the lookout for symptoms such as joint pain or weakness especially if you’ve been diagnosed with a severe form of psoriasis previously.

Getting proper treatment is essential in preserving quality of life and reducing your risk of further health complications as well.

This article first appeared on Hello Doktor. The Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.