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Can Psoriasis Cause Arthritis?

Psoriasis, Psoriatic Arthritis

Psoriasis is the skin disease where certain cells in the skin grow and divide far too rapidly. This out of control growth causes patches of skin where the quickly dying cells collect to raise in scale-like areas. These areas flake off as the skin cells are shed. Doctors have determined that psoriasis is an autoimmune disease, which means a person’s own body reacts against its organs, including the skin. But, can a skin disease like psoriasis actually cause another autoimmune disease like arthritis?

The answer is, unfortunately, that sometimes it can. There is a type of arthritis called psoriatic arthritis. As the name implies, the affected person suffers from both psoriasis and arthritis, as if one wasn’t bad enough. In most cases, the psoriasis shows up first, sometimes years before. And not all people with psoriasis will get arthritis, in fact, only about 15-30 percent. Arthritis is a disease that affects the joints with swelling and stiffness. Some types of arthritis affect a few joints and some affect a lot. Some people experience symmetrical joint pain, which means the same joints on both sides of the body are affected, while others might have asymmetrical joint pain, which means only some joints are affected, such as one hip or one wrist.

Psoriatic arthritis tends to affect the body symmetrically. One distinct symptom of psoriatic arthritis is the fact that a single finger or toe can become swollen, leaving it looking like a sausage. This can be very painful and make it even more difficult to use the hands or feet. No one really knows why having psoriasis can sometimes lead to arthritis, but having a genetic predisposition makes it more likely. If a parent has it, their children have about a 50-50 chance of inheriting it as well. Since they are both autoimmune diseases, it seems possible that the onset of psoriasis can trigger the autoimmune response in the joints as well. Then there are the people who have no family history that also become affected. As with other types of arthritis, psoriatic arthritis is not curable. It can best be treated with pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medicines to bring some relief. One rather strong drug is Methotrexate. This drug is also used to treat cancer and has been used for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis for a number of years. There are possible serious side effects, so being carefully monitored by a rheumatologist is essential.

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Moderate exercise like walking each day will also help to relieve some of the joint stiffness. Water activities will also help by making the body lighter so the person can move better. Heat on the joints and limbs can be another way to bring some temporary relief, so warms spas and foot baths are another method of treatment. So if you or someone you know has psoriasis, you might want to be aware that there’s a chance it could lead to arthritis. If left untreated, psoriatic arthritis can lead to permanently disfigured joints and even severe disability. For this reason, visiting your doctor for regular checkups and/or medications is always a good idea. Never ignore psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis.