Psoriatic arthritis is not life-threatening, but it can reduce a patient’s life expectancy by three years. Here is how to properly manage the disease.
Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is a chronic (long-standing), inflammatory disease, affecting up to one percent of the adult population. About 40 percent of patients with psoriasis are also affected by this type of arthritis.
Though there is no cure for psoriatic arthritis, effective treatment can help patients alleviate their symptoms and prevent the condition from worsening.
Psoriatic arthritis is not life-threatening, but affected patients do have a reduced life expectancy of around three years compared to people without the condition. The main cause of death appears to be respiratory and cardiovascular causes. However, treatment can substantially help improve the long-term prognosis.
Psoriasis can destroy joints in the body, but it is hard to predict which patients will be most affected.
The reduced life expectancy associated with psoriatic arthritis may be the result of a patient’s greater risk of developing comorbid conditions, such as:
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Uveitis (eye inflammation)
- Lung disease
- Liver disease
- Anemia (a low red blood cell count)
- Osteoporosis (weak and brittle bones)
Medication can help lower the risk of developing widespread inflammation, which plays a big role in the development of other inflammatory conditions, such as IBD.
How does psoriatic arthritis impact quality of life?
The intensity of psoriasis varies between patients. Some people may have mild symptoms of the disease, whereas others may face severe complications. Either way, psoriatic arthritis can negatively impact your quality of life in the following ways:
- Swollen fingers and toes
- Tender, swollen tendons
- Joint pain
- Morning stiffness
- A reduced range of motion
- Pitting or discolored spots in nails
- Eye inflammation
How can psoriatic arthritis patients manage their psoriasis?
Do not stop your treatment unless advised
- As advised by your doctor, continue taking your medication despite a dramatic relief in symptoms. A disease-free period does not mean that your psoriatic arthritis is cured. Failing to keep up with your treatment could lead to a recurrence of the previous signs and symptoms within a few months.
Maintain healthy body weight
- Weight gain can put stress on your knee joints, while excess fat accumulation can aggravate inflammation in the body. Maintaining an ideal body weight can prevent psoriasis from worsening and decrease your risk of other conditions, such as heart disease and fatty liver.
- Recent evidence suggests exercise alleviates fatigue, which is commonly experienced by patients with psoriatic arthritis. Work with your doctor to find the right exercise program for you. However, do not start a new exercise program or perform high-impact exercises when you are experiencing psoriatic flares.
Manage your pain
- Massages, occupational therapy and physiotherapy can help relieve pain and stiffness, as well as restore joint mobility.
- Orthotic devices, such as braces and splints, can help you manage your daily activities with comfort and ease.
Manage your stress
- Get adequate rest when suffering from extremely painful joints due to the condition.
- Engage yourself in activities that you enjoy, such as singing, dancing, gardening, painting, walking in the woods or anything that makes you happy and relaxed. Yoga, meditation or tai chi are known to help release stress.
- If these measures do not help you feel better, consider talking to a mental health therapist. They can offer you counseling and teach you relaxation techniques.
Know your triggers
- Maintain a diary by writing which activities or foods trigger your psoriasis flares or worsen your joint pain and swelling. Check if avoiding those foods or activities helps improve your condition. You should also inform your doctor about them.
- There are psoriasis support programs offered by the National Psoriasis Foundation. Consider enrolling in one to learn more about the disease and ways to tackle it.