PSORIATIC ARTHRITIS: YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT IT NOW AND HERE'S WHY

Few people realize there's a link between psoriasis and arthritis. Here's what you need to know, what to watch for and where to turn for more help.
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Few people realize there's a link between psoriasis and arthritis. Here's what you need to know, what to watch for and where to turn for more help.
psoriatic arthritis, summer and breaking the double-whammy

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But when your frustrating case of psoriasis teams up with a side of constant joint pain – what the? Called psoriatric arthritis (sorry-attic arth-rye-tiss), it's a two-for-one condition that most know little about until it hits in a double-whammy. 

Psoriatic arthritis can take years to diagnose, so you need to know about it now. The more you know, the better questions you can ask if seemingly unrelated issues pop up. More importantly, the earlier you catch it, the better you can manage.

what is psoriatic arthritis?

A chronic inflammatory disease known as PsA for short, psoriatic arthritis afflicts the joints with stiffness, swelling and pain – arthritis – and the skin with itchy red scaly patches – psoriasis (sore-eye-ya-siss). Dr. Afsaneh Alavi, a dermatologist in Toronto, says that psoriatic arthritis strikes up to 30 percent of people who already have psoriasis.

PsA is difficult to diagnose, partly because people don't realize an angry persistant rash can have something to do with painful joints. "Data shows that on average it takes more than two years for a patient with psoriasitic arthritis to be diagnosed," says Dr. Alavi. It's even more complicated in patients who exhibit no signs of psoriasis.

do you or could you have PsA?

Angèlique Martel, 40, is the beauty director at Elle Québec. She's been dealing with arthritis since she was just 16. Psoriasis caught up with her only four or five years ago, when she was in her mid-30s. "When I'm stressed, I get flare-ups of psoriasis and arthritis together now," she says. "I didn't know there was a link between the conditions until my doctor told me."

One of the first things to do if you're looking for answers is create a dialogue with your healthcare professional. Other clues:

  • A history of arthritis and/or psoriasis in your family increases your PsA odds. "My grandmother had arthritis; my mother did not," notes Angèlique.
  • An inexplicably sore swelling heel or finger, or seemingly random swollen, stiff and painful joints can point to PsA. 
  • An existing case of psoriasis puts you at a higher risk for PsA. Consult your doctor if in addition to itchy red patches of skin you start to experience joint stiffness, swelling and soreness. You want to catch it early and begin treatment as soon as possible to avoid permanent joint damage.
  • A 30-second quiz at BreakTheDoubleWhammy.ca can serve as a helpful foundation for a conversation with your doctor.

psoriatic arthritis and heat

psoriatic arthritis_PsA_do you have it?

The thing with conditions like PsA that affects joints as well as skin is that seasonal changes – or a beach vacation in the middle of winter – come with different drawbacks.

Hot-weather humidity doesn't agree with Angèlique's arthritis, but it does help her psoriasis. "The inflammation is on my scalp," she says. To avoid making the irritation worse, "I use very gentle shampoo and conditioner. I do colour every three months though, and I suffer; it burns. But if I stop colouring, I'd be grey, so each appointment I just make sure my colourist knows about my psoriasis."

Most PsA patients who have psoriasis generally experience some improvement of their skin condition in warmer weather, says Dr. Alavi. Higher humidity is a factor in the skin's improved comfort, and fewer layers of clothing. "Sunlight contributes as well, but we never suggest patients spend time in the sun because of the risk of UV damage and skin cancer." Dr. Alavi recommends fragrance-free, high-spf sunscreen, an essential to protect already delicate skin compromised by PsA.

"Moisturizer is also important; you want to keep the skin well hydrated, even in summer," she adds. "Use a light, bland lotion without fragrance or dyes." The shorter the ingredient list, the better.

For some PsA patients with psoriasis, however, hot weather extremes can cause more upset. "The psoriasis rash typically occurs on extensor surface of the body – the scalp, the arms, the legs," explains Dr. Alva. "But some patients experience psoriasis in folded areas, such as under the arms, or under the breasts or at the groin." Sweat gathers in those areas and exacerbates the irritation. To help minimize that discomfort, Dr. Alva recommends loose, light clothing and diligence in keeping the affected areas clean, and comfortably dry.

For more PsA information, visit BreakTheDoubleWhammy.ca.

Do you cope with psoriatic arthritis? How did you find out there is a link between psoriasis and arthritis? What's your hot-weather skin strategy either for summer or beach vacations in the winter?