Did you know that it’s possible to reduce the impact of psoriatic arthritis symptoms in your day-to-day life?
Psoriatic arthritis is a disease that affects the joints, as well as the skin and nails. Approximately 10 to 30% of people with psoriasis, a chronic skin disease, suffer from psoriatic arthritis.
There is currently no cure for psoriatic arthritis. However, there are several treatments that can lessen symptoms and control pain to help affected people lead an active life. The progression of this type of arthritis is usually slow and seldom aggressive.
What are the causes of psoriatic arthritis?
It is known that a genetic link increases the risk of having the disease. If a family member has psoriatic arthritis, this increases your risk of having it. However, not everyone who has the gene will develop the disease. Other determinants also play a role, such as infections, injuries or environmental factors.
What are the symptoms of psoriatic arthritis?
Skin involvement is the central feature of this disease. Psoriasis generally causes clearly defined reddish plaques covered with silvery scales called squama. There is also sometimes lifting of the fingernails or toenails.
The small joints in the hands and fingers are those most often affected. Pain and swelling are the most common signs in these joints due to the inflammation caused by the disease. Larger joints such as the wrists, elbows, shoulders or knees can also become inflamed. The articular system is not the only one that can be affected. Inflammation occurs when the immune system (the body’s defence) attacks the joints and sometimes other organs as well, such as the eyes or the heart.
Since skin symptoms are the most significant, the onset of joint inflammation usually appears a few months later, although the opposite has sometimes been observed.
What are the possible non-drug treatments?
It is recommended to exercise to reduce the symptoms associated with arthritis, as this promotes joint mobility, while lessening pain. You can ask the advice of a physiotherapist or kinesiologist for a program suited to your health.
Choosing a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight is also recommended.
Cold or heat?
Heat helps to ease pain and stiffness. Therefore, it is beneficial to take hot showers or to apply hot compresses (taking care to protect the skin with a towel for instance). However, the application of heat should be avoided if there is joint inflammation. If inflammation occurs, the application of ice will be more beneficial to ease pain and reduce swelling. Again, keep in mind that ice should never be applied directly to the skin (use a protective layer).
What about drug treatments?
Your doctor may prescribe one or several medications to control the disease or manage symptoms, depending on the severity of the disease, allergies or past reactions to medications. Here are some examples of possible treatments.
Anti-inflammatory drugs do not change the course of the disease, but they often help to effectively control pain and swelling.
Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs)
These help to decrease the abnormal response by your immune system. Methotrexate, sulfasalazine, asathioprine and hydroxychloroquine are found in this drug class.
These can sometimes be injected directly into the joint to reduce inflammation.
Biological response modifiers (BRM)
These help to reduce inflammation and, as such, the pain. They block the activity of certain substances responsible for inflammation. They are often used when the disease is resistant to other treatments. Adalimumab, infliximab, etancercept and golimumab are examples of this drug class.
There are other treatments against psoriatic arthritis, but it would take too long to include them all here.
In any case, remember that it is essential to inform your pharmacist of your condition before purchasing over-the-counter medications or natural products. Additionally, it is strongly recommended that you speak to your pharmacist each time there is a change to your health or about any potential side effects.
Don’t hesitate to speak to your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions about psoriatic arthritis