A diagnosis of psoriatic arthritis may make you feel scared, confused, or even shocked. You might worry about what your future looks like or whether you’ll need help with basic daily tasks.
A diagnosis of PsA can be scary at first. But with the right treatment, support, and resources, you can live your best life.
Build a Health Care Team
Because PsA is a complex disease that affects the joints and the skin, you’ll probably need a team of professionals to treat it. One of the first steps after diagnosis is to figure out who should be on yours.
Your health care team may include:
- Rheumatologist. This doctor will probably be your go-to specialist. A rheumatologist treats joint symptoms such as pain, stiffness, and inflammation.
- Dermatologist. A dermatologist focuses on the skin.
- Primary care doctor. They’ll help you keep your overall health in good shape.
- Cardiologist. You may need a cardiologist if you get heart problems, which are more common in people with PsA.
- Physical or occupational therapist. These experts teach you ways to manage your pain and improve movement.
- Mental health professional. A psychologist or psychiatrist can treat mental health issues.
- Other medical specialists. You might need to see another expert if you have complications of PsA, such as problems with your eyes, lungs, or stomach.
Make the Most of Your Doctor Visit
Before you see the doctor, it’s a good idea to write down a list of topics you want to cover. You’ll probably have a lot of questions.
You might want to ask things like:
- How does PsA change over time?
- What problems may come up down the road?
- What treatment do you think will work best right now?
- How long will this treatment work?
- Can you share my medical information with the other doctors on my team?
You may want to bring a family member or friend with you to provide another pair of ears. It can be hard to remember everything your doctor says.
Your doctor might also have some questions for you. Think about your answers to things like:
- What symptoms do you have?
- Which joints are affected?
- When did your symptoms start?
- Does anyone else in your family have PsA or psoriasis?
- What medicines and supplements do you take?
- What triggers seem to make your symptoms better or worse?
The Emotional Toll of PsA
Many people with PsA struggle emotionally.
Researchers say that more than 20% of people with PsA have depression. Anxiety is also common. You might worry that your disease will cause lasting damage. One study found that 1 in 3 people with PsA had at least mild anxiety.
These emotional issues can make your condition worse. Research shows that anxiety and depression can cause symptom flare-ups.
- Try talk therapy. This approach is effective for people with various mental health conditions. A psychologist or psychiatrist can guide you through it.
- Ask about medications. Your doctor may prescribe antidepressants to help ease depression or anxiety.
- Exercise. You may feel less stressed and in a better mood overall if you get regular activity.
- Get enough sleep. Sleep helps you manage symptoms of depression. Talk to your doctor if you have trouble getting a full night’s rest.
- Try yoga or meditation. They may help you relax and feel less anxious.
- Avoid alcohol, drugs, caffeine, and smoking. These things can make your symptoms worse.
Manage Pain With Lifestyle Changes
The sooner you start treatment, the better. Early treatment can improve symptoms and lower your risk of permanent joint damage.
Your treatment plan will depend on how severe your disease is. The aim is to lessen inflammation and pain and prevent more damage.
Lifestyle changes can also help you feel better physically. You might want to try:
- Exercise. Besides boosting your state of mind, movement keeps your joints and tendons loose, which helps lessen pain and inflammation. Strong muscles can also take a load off your joints.
- Acupuncture. Studies show that acupuncture may relieve pain in people with PsA.
- Meditation. This can reduce stress, which may prevent flare-ups.
- A healthy diet. Anti-inflammatory foods may help with symptoms of PsA. Aim to eat more veggies, fruits, whole grains, and fish. Cut down on processed foods.
- Protect your joints. You may have to change how you do everyday activities to ease the strain on your joints. Gadgets can help you handle tasks that might be hard, like opening a jar.
- Keeping a healthy weight. Extra pounds put more strain on your joints, which leads to pain.
- Stop smoking. It might make your symptoms worse.
- Don’t push yourself. PsA can cause fatigue. Rest when you need it.
- Apply ice or heat. Cold or heat can relieve joint discomfort.
Ways to Find Support
Remember that you don’t have to face this disease alone. Support from friends and family can help you cope with physical and emotional challenges.
You may also want to join a support group. They’re one way to connect with other people who are dealing with the same things you are or who can share tips that helped them.
The National Psoriasis Foundation’s One to One mentoring program links you with other PsA patients. And the Arthritis Foundation offers a program called Live Yes! Connect Groups, which connects people across the country with support groups.
Healthy relationships are important. Spend time with people who are supportive and positive to improve your own outlook.
A strong social support network can help you cope with your symptoms and improve your overall quality of life when you have psoriatic arthritis.