Skin and Joint Care for Psoriatic Arthritis
Psoriatic Arthritis Self-Care for Skin
Though medications can go a long way, you may supplement your medical treatments with at-home care. Steven Feldman, MD, PhD, professor of dermatology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, recommends the following psoriasis self-care tips for your skin:
- Moisturize. "Dry, cracked skin is easily injured and it can cause the psoriasis to pop up," Feldman says. Take short, warm baths and showers, rather than long or hot ones. And moisturize your skin after every wash. Use a cream or moisturizer that you like, one you will not mind putting on daily.
- Use gentle soap. Be wary of liquid soaps. "They're not really soap. They're detergent and much harsher than bar products," says Feldman.
- Go to the light. Measured exposure to ultraviolet light in small doses can help clear up psoriasis. Light therapy, or phototherapy, is usually provided in a doctor's office, or at home with special equipment. Whether you're using phototherapy or not, be sure to avoid getting sunburned, as this can sometimes trigger the growth of psoriasis plaques.
- Don't scratch. Feldman knows this is easier said than done: "As a doctor, I want to clear up the itching so my patients don't feel the urge to scratch."
Psoriatic Arthritis Self-Care for Joints
Your daily activities can go a long way toward making psoriatic arthritis worse or better. Help protect your joints with the following healthy tips:
- Exercise your muscles. Regular physical activity can strengthen the muscles around your joints, keep your joints flexible, and help manage your weight. But be careful not to overdo it.
- Eat well. You may have heard about diets that prevent or magically clear up arthritis. But there's no evidence that any of them work. Food may not directly affect your joints. But it does affect your nutrition and weight. Focus on eating more fruits and vegetables and reducing added sugar and saturated fats in your diet.
- Manage your weight. For those with psoriatic arthritis who are overweight, weight loss can be critical. "It decreases the load on joints and lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease," Ritchlin says.
- Apply heat and cold, and rest. Doing so may reduce painful symptoms. But avoid long periods of bed rest and follow your doctor's instructions.
- Support your joints. Splints can be used to support your joints, which may help improve function and reduce pain and swelling.
Don't Put Up With Psoriatic Arthritis
Gottlieb is troubled by the false idea that patients have no choice but to just livewith the pain and limitations of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. "I tell patients, 'Don't learn to live with your joint pain and skin disease. Get the right treatment.'"
Some days will be better than others. But learning about psoriatic arthritis and doing things within your control can have a positive impact on your skin and joints, and your outlook.
Alice B. Gottlieb and Christopher T. Ritchlin both consult for pharmaceutical companies that make TNF blockers.