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Psoriatic Arthritis Health Center

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Skin and Joint Care Guide for Psoriatic Arthritis

By John Donovan
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by David Zelman, MD

It’s important take care of your skin when you have psoriatic arthritis. You also need to do all you can to be kind to those sore joints.

The first step: See a doctor. A rheumatologist can help.

She'll help you set up a plan. Stick to it. Use your medications.

You can also do a lot of things at home to keep your skin and joints as healthy as possible.

For the Skin

Moisturize. Use a good moisturizer, and plenty of it. Dry skin can itch more, says Jennifer Murase, MD, a dermatologist in Mountain View, CA.

Itchiness can lead to scratching, skin damage, more psoriasis symptoms, and maybe infections. “It’s important to keep it moist for that reason,” Murase says.

It’s best to moisturize right after you shower.

Which product you choose is key, she says. Look for ones that aren’t likely to cause an allergic reaction or otherwise irritate your skin. Heavily scented moisturizers can do that. “And you want to make sure the pH is as close to water as possible,” Murase says.

Cooking oils and shortening can be used as inexpensive moisturizers.

Smooth it out. Over-the-counter lotions and creams that you put on your psoriasis can really reduce scaling. Two ingredients have been approved by the FDA: salicylic acid and tar. Both can irritate skin. Check with your doctor to make sure they’re OK for you to use.

See the light. Ultraviolet B light (UVB) is a good way to battle psoriasis. It gets past the skin and into the affected cells, slowing their growth.

Your doctor may prescribe light therapy, also known as phototherapy. Your skin gets treated with a UVB light in sessions that range from seconds to as long as 5 minutes or so. You usually get the treatment a doctor’s office, but they can be done at home, too. You’ll have to stick to them to get their full benefit.

If you can’t do light therapy, natural sunlight also works.

“[Get] 15 to 30 minutes of natural sunlight a day,” Murase suggests, especially for those not close to a dermatologist. This tends to help a lot of people with psoriasis, she says.

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