Mar 11, 2020

Managing Psoriatic Arthritis Flares

Carolina Arthritis

Not everyone with psoriatic arthritis will have the same experience. However, just about everyone who has psoriatic arthritis has flare-ups or “flares,” which is when symptoms are more severe than usual.

Psoriatic arthritis flares can affect the skin, joints, or back. Knowing what triggers flares and understanding early warning signs is key to managing them. It’s also essential to educate yourself about all aspects of this disease.

Keep reading for more information about how to diagnose flares, the symptoms, and how to manage them.

What is Psoriatic Arthritis?

Psoriatic arthritis is an inflammatory arthritis associated with the skin disease, psoriasis. Psoriasis causes small-sized to large-sized patches of red, scaly, and itchy skin. Patches of psoriasis frequently appear over bony prominences such as the elbows and knees. Psoriasis affects 1-2% of the population and of these patients with psoriasis, approximately 10% will go on to develop inflammatory arthritis.

Most of the time, the arthritis portion of psoriatic arthritis begins after the patient has had skin disease for many years. However, sometimes the arthritis may be the first feature, or the arthritis and skin lesions may appear together. Psoriatic arthritis may have several different types of presentations. The most common is the involvement of just a few joints. Some patients with psoriatic arthritis may resemble a patient with rheumatoid arthritis with multiple joints. Some patients may have a predominance of involvement of the spine, and some patients may have digits that look like sausages. Other patients may have lots of inflammation where tendons attach to the bone.

How psoriatic arthritis is diagnosed.

The diagnosis of psoriatic arthritis can best be made by a rheumatologist who is familiar with the many subtleties of this disease. X-rays can sometimes assist in the diagnosis. A careful history and a detailed physical examination with particular attention to the joints, skin, and nails are most important. Once the diagnosis of psoriatic arthritis is made, your rheumatologist will devise a treatment strategy for you.

What causes flares?

A variety of factors can trigger a psoriatic arthritis flare-up. Your immune system may be activated by stress, infections, a physical injury, or smoking—just to name a few.

When flare-ups happen, your joints might start to feel swollen, tender, and stiff. However, it’s also possible that you won’t have swelling during a flare-up, and your main symptom might be fatigue.

What are the symptoms of psoriatic arthritis?

Some symptoms of psoriatic arthritis include the following:

  • Stiffness and swelling of toes and fingers.
  • Foot pain, especially in the sole and the back of the heel.
  • Lower back pain.
  • Joint pain: Joints can become swollen, warm to the touch, and painful.

Preventing flare-ups.

  • Incorporate arthritis-friendly exercises: Proper exercise is essential for strengthening muscles, keeping joints and tendons loose, and maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Reduce stress: Not only is stress a psoriatic arthritis trigger, but it can also make you more sensitive to pain. Find simple ways to ease anxiety, such as yoga, meditation, reading, or crafting.
  • Get plenty of rest: Practice good sleep habits, such as going to bed early, creating a consistent schedule, and stress-reduction techniques to help you sleep well. Sometimes getting extra rest may not resolve this level of fatigue, but it’s essential to give your body time to recover from pain and inflammation.
  • Avoid injury: Psoriasis can develop where there is a skin injury. To prevent arthritis, try your best to avoid these types of accidents.

Manage symptoms during a psoriatic flare-up.

  • Decrease pain and stiffness with over-the-counter medications: Ibuprofen or Naproxen may be useful in easing some of the discomfort caused by flares.
  • Moisturize: During a flare-up, locking in moisture is the first step to relieving the itch. Create a good skincare routine, especially in dry weather. Moisturizing will help prevent flares and help ease symptoms.
  • Utilize assistive devices: Talk to your doctor about helpful assistive devices to provide additional support for an affected joint. They can recommend tools such as wraps, splints, or special inserts to assist with pain.
  • Hot and cold therapy: Cold packs can have a numbing effect, which will help dull your pain. Heat can help relieve pain and swelling by soothing sore muscles.

Rheumatologists are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of psoriatic arthritis. With the advent of newer therapies, the majority of patients can live healthy, productive lives.

At Carolina Arthritis, we believe it is imperative for our patients to fully understand their diagnosis and be comfortable with the treatment. While there is no single treatment for psoriatic arthritis that suits everyone, the doctors at Carolina Arthritis are well trained in lessening ongoing symptoms and enhancing a patients’ quality of life.

If you’re ready to tackle your psoriatic arthritis, contact us right away to schedule an appointment.