Contributed by: Rachana Arya
Psoriatic arthritis — a condition that combines inflammatory arthritis with psoriasis — is perhaps one of the most perhaps underdiagnosed conditions in Indian settings. There are numerous myths and misconceptions associated with the condition. The most common error that a majority of people make when dealing with this medical condition is mistaking its symptoms for those of other types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis. A handful of people also tend to underestimate the magnitude of its severity and misunderstand the available treatment options. Indeed, it is estimated that between 10-15% of patients with psoriatic arthritis stay undiagnosed or have a delay in diagnosis, correlating with worse disease outcomes.
In this article, we tackle some of the most long-lived half-truths and untruths associated with psoriatic arthritis. Read on to learn about the six myths about psoriatic arthritis and discover the real facts.
Myth #1: People with PsA experience similar symptoms
The difficulty in identifying PsA stems from the fact that symptoms differ from person to person. Some people simply report mild symptoms of joint pain and stiffness, with limited impact on movement. Others may notice joint deformity and bone enlargement. The risk of presuming all PsA symptoms are the same is misdiagnosis and treatment failure.
PsA can cause the following symptoms:
- Skin rashes and scaly patches
- Deformities in finger and toenails
- Inflammation of the eye
- Swelling and tenderness in joints
- Difficulty in moving and doing daily tasks
- Stiffness, particularly in the morning
- Overwhelming fatigue
- Difficulty sleeping at night
- Foot pain
Myth #2: If you have psoriasis you’ll definitely suffer from psoriasis arthritis
This is not necessarily true. While psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis are both inflammatory conditions, it is possible to get psoriatic arthritis without developing psoriasis. Not everyone who has been diagnosed with psoriasis will develop psoriatic arthritis and not everyone who has psoriatic arthritis will have visible psoriasis lesions on their skin. It is estimated that psoriatic arthritis occurs in 30% to 40% of people with psoriasis.
A genetic predisposition also does not guarantee that the disease will manifest. Other initiating factors may act together with a genetic predisposition to set the disease process in motion. However, because people with psoriasis are more likely to develop psoriatic arthritis, doctors recommend that anybody with psoriasis get regular arthritis screenings.
Myth #3: Medication is the only thing you can do to treat the symptoms of psoriasis arthritis
Medication is an important part of managing psoriatic arthritis to control inflammation and limit damage to the joints. However, there are several lifestyle approaches that also benefit psoriatic arthritis patients. Diet and exercise are also crucial in the treatment of psoriatic arthritis. This condition can be efficiently controlled and the indications and symptoms of the disease can be reduced if you lose weight. Patients who lost weight by a combination of diet and exercise in addition to taking medication can increase the effectiveness of psoriatic arthritis medications.
Myth #4: Psoriatic arthritis only affects the joints
In addition to causing progressive joint damage, psoriatic arthritis can also cause a range of other symptoms throughout the body. This condition is also responsible for significant fatigue, anemia, changes in the fingernails, painful swelling of the fingers and toes, inflammation of the eyes, and hardening of the ligaments. The disease also affects mental health; people with psoriatic arthritis are twice as likely to be depressed as people with psoriasis. Psoriatic arthritis can not only be limb-threatening, but also life-threatening as it can also raise the risk of developing other serious health conditions, such as heart disease, depression, and diabetes.
Myth #5: Psoriatic arthritis gets worse with physical activity
Contrary to the existing myth, it is believed that exercise in moderation can reduce joint pain and stiffness, improve flexibility, increase range of motion, help with weight loss, and more. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, people with psoriatic arthritis should undertake low-impact exercises — think swimming, yoga, swimming, walking, and biking — instead of high-impact exercise like running.
Myth #6: Psoriatic arthritis affects only older adults
Psoriatic arthritis is a complex disease, and although most people are diagnosed with PsA between ages 30 and 50, the disease can affect anyone at any age. The fact is that psoriatic arthritis can begin as early as childhood. The misconception that symptoms of psoriatic arthritis only affect older adults is especially harmful to people who develop the debilitating condition at a younger age. If you’re under 30 years of age, you shouldn’t assume that you can’t get PsA.
The key to preventing the disease from progressing is by working with the right specialists, self-care, and adopting healthy lifestyle modifications to ward off the debilitating factors of PsA. If you’re not already seeing a rheumatologist and dermatologist, it’s a good idea to start seeing one today for an accurate diagnosis and management of this rheumatic disease.
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