Approximately 15% of people with psoriasis also develop a condition called psoriatic arthritis (PSA).
This form of arthritis occurs when the body's immune system not only starts to attack your skin, causing the trademark skin lesions of psoriasis, but also begins to attack your joints as well. Sometimes, PSA can occur before you see rashes on your skin. Your elbows, knees, back, and even finger tips can be affected.
Many everyday activities can become difficult for people with this disease. A form of PSA called spondylitis, which is centered in the spine, can make bending over, sitting down, and even just turning your neck difficult. When PSA affects your fingers and toes, it causes them to swell up, making it difficult for people to handle objects or wear socks, shoes, or gloves. It can also cause sensitivity in areas where tendons or ligaments join your bones, resulting in pain in those areas. Over time, this disease can, like most forms of arthritis, cause severe joint damage.
Although there is no cure for PSA, there are steps you can take to reduce damage and improve your condition. Low-level pain can be treated with over-the-counter NSAIDs such as ibuprofen or naproxen sodium. If the inflammation is more severe, stronger medications including DMARDs(Disease-modifying antirheumatics) such as methotrexae, better known as Trexall, immunosuppressants such as cyclosporine, or Sandimmune, may be used to get your immune system under control. TNF-Alpha inhibitors such as infliximab or Remicade can reduce one of the inflammatory substances that cause pain. Severe cases could require the injection of steroids or surgical operation on damaged joints.
There are many lifestyle changes that can help you cope with PSA. Maintaining a healthy weight with diet and regular exercise reduces the strain on your joints and strengthens your muscles, keeping the joints flexible and reducing pain. Low-intensity exercises that can help include walking, swimming, and riding a bicycle.
Exercises or any strenuous work you perform should be divided into short periods to keep you from becoming exhausted. This will help reduce the chance of injury and joint damage. You should also use hot and cold packs on a regular basis to help numb any pain and relax your muscles. Use ice packs on your joints for 20-30 minutes a day.
Another thing that can help people with PSA is support from others. Psoriasis often affects people on an emotional level, and this becomes harder to cope with when physical pain is added. Therapy can reduce your stress levels and reduce the effects of both psoriasis and PSA. Similarly, there are many support groups that can help you cope with this disease and supplement the support from your friends and family.