Psoriatic arthritis – Causes, symptoms, and treatment methods
Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is a condition that combines the symptoms of both psoriasis and arthritis. Psoriasis results in flaky and itchy skin. This also results in visible red patches on the skin and on the scalp. Arthritis is a typical inflammation of the joints. In the country, about 7.5 million people suffer from psoriasis. Out of these, about 2.25 million people show signs of PsA. Here is a detailed list of the causes, symptoms, and both medical and natural treatments available for PsA.
- Genetic causes
One of the top causes of psoriatic arthritis is heredity. Out of all the cases in the country, about 40% of the patients have a history of PsA affecting one or more of their family members. If your parents or grandparents had PsA, do not forget to mention this to your doctor.
- Environmental/ situational causes
Though doctors have no clear idea why some people get affected by psoriatic arthritis and others don’t, environmental or situational factors seem to play some role in increasing your risk of getting this condition. Some common triggers that can put you at risk of developing psoriatic arthritis are exposure to tobacco smoke, excessive drinking, lack of exercise, certain types of injuries or skin wounds/infections, and staying in extremely cold regions.
- Swelling of distal joints
A common symptom of psoriatic arthritis is swelling of joints. Swelling happens because your immune system is attacking your joints. While all joints are affected by regular types of arthritis, in psoriatic arthritis, the commonly affected joints are those that are close to your nails in both your fingers and toes. In extreme cases, the wrists, knees, back, and the ankles also suffer from swelling.
- Morning stiffness
A major symptom of arthritis is stiffness while trying to move, especially in the mornings. If you find it difficult to bend or straighten your fingers or toes, in particular, talk to your doctor right away.
- Flaky scalp
Psoriasis leads to flakiness in the skin. A flaky scalp is also a very common symptom of psoriatic arthritis. In this condition, your immune system attacks your skin and your joints and this causes shedding of skin cells in the form of flakes. If your scalp constantly sheds white flakes irrespective of the season or the time of the year, get yourself tested for psoriatic arthritis.
- Red and itchy skin
Another symptom of your immune system affecting your skin is the formation of red patches on the skin. The skin also becomes unmanageably itchy.
- Nail pitting
Nails are usually smooth to touch. If your nails look pitted with lesions or have uneven depressions, this is considered a very common symptom of psoriatic arthritis. In fact, up to 80% of people with psoriatic arthritis experience nail pitting. Pitting can be followed by changes in the nail’s color and subsequent dislocation of the nail from the nail bed.
- Skin that becomes more flaky and itchy when arthritis symptoms are triggered
While all these symptoms can indicate only arthritis or psoriasis, if you find your skin getting more sensitive when your joint pain is triggered or vice versa, then the symptoms are almost always due to psoriatic arthritis.
- OTC medication and topical creams
Medically, the first stage of treatment for psoriatic arthritis involves using Over-The-Counter (OTC) medications and topical creams. Some OTC drugs can bring down joint pain and inflammation. These are often used along with topical creams to reduce the intensity of itchiness and redness.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
If these OTC medications and creams do no work, your doctor may suggest non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. These are also called NSAIDs. These, when used in the right amounts, can effectively work on inflammation in the joints. There are two kinds of these drugs usually prescribed – COX-2 selective and non-selective. Talk to your doctor to know more about these.
Since psoriatic arthritis is a result of your immune system attacking your body, immunosuppressants are obvious treatment choices. These weaken your immune system and prevent the body from attacking its own skin and joints. However, these medicines put you at risk of developing infections.
- Light therapy
The latest treatment option that is proving effective for psoriatic arthritis is light therapy. By focusing light on the skin, experts treat skin rashes and flakiness.
- Staying away from stress
Apart from medical treatments, a powerful natural remedy for psoriatic arthritis is avoiding stress. Stress and mental pressure can worsen the condition and trigger skin redness and increase inflammation. Try relaxation techniques like meditation to prevent flare-ups.
- Using hot packs for inflammation and stiffness
If inflammation of the joints and stiffness prevents you from leading a normal life, try using a hot pack multiple times during the day. Hot packs reduce the extent of the inflammation and also help manage morning stiffness naturally.
- Using cold packs for pain
Some people find it impossible to sleep because of joint pain. For such individuals, the cold pack is a perfect natural treatment. Cold packs bring down pain and help you fall asleep peacefully. Definitely try it out.
- Following a PsA approved diet
Another great natural remedy for psoriatic arthritis is following a PsA approved diet plan. The general idea is to include a lot of anti-inflammatory foods in your diet to keep inflammation in check. Omega-3 fatty acids are a must in this case. You should stay away from dairy products, red meat, and all kinds of processed foods. Also, say no to sugary drinks, pastries, and sweets that trigger psoriasis and make inflammation worse.
Psoriatic arthritis is a disease you can easily manage if you are aware of the condition and stay calm and composed about it. Get yourself regularly checked by your doctor to monitor your condition’s progress and eat healthy foods and work out every day.