What Makes Psoriatic Arthritis Worse?

Medically Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian, MD on May 05, 2021

If you want to avoid or limit a flare-up of psoriatic arthritis, take a long, hard look at your lifestyle. Making some key tweaks to your health habits can help you stave off a return of symptoms like inflammation and joint pain.

The triggers of psoriatic arthritis flares vary from person to person and can change over time. But consider altering your approach to common problems that often make psoriatic arthritis worse.

Just as stretching and light exercise can make it easier for you to get around and make your joints more flexible, lack of exercise and weight gain can quickly send you in the other direction and trigger flares.

Don't neglect your body. Extra weight can:

  • Put added pressure on already sore joints and on your spine
  • Cause extra inflammation in your body and lead to arthritis in more joints
  • Make skin problems worse
  • Interfere with how well your medicine works

Saturated fats, sugar, alcohol, and simple carbohydrates can add pounds, cause inflammation, and trigger psoriatic arthritis flares.

Try to avoid foods such as:

  • Processed meats like hot dogs, sausages, and bacon
  • Sugary drinks
  • Packaged cakes, cookies, and snacks
  • Soda
  • White bread
  • White rice
  • Candy
  • Fried foods
  • Alcohol

Some studies show a link between poor sleep and worsening symptoms of psoriatic arthritis. Lack of sleep and fatigue are linked to flare-ups.

A lack of sleep also adds to your stress level, which can cause a flare since stress releases chemicals in your body that lead to inflammation.

Talk to your doctor about how to improve your sleep habits so you can get better rest. Things like waking up and going to sleep at the same time each day can help. So can making sure your bedroom stays at a cool temperature and avoiding caffeinated drinks too close to bedtime.

Exercise and meditation are helpful to curb stress. Also, consider seeing a counselor who can suggest ways to manage tension.

Experts say alcohol might be a factor in raising your chances of getting psoriasis, but more research is needed on the link between drinking and psoriatic arthritis. One study suggests women who drink too much alcohol get the disease more often than those who don't.

Keep in mind that alcohol and psoriatic arthritis medications often don't mix. At the very least, a drink might affect how well your medicine works. At worst, mixing the two can lead to more severe complications, like stomach ulcers, bleeding, and liver damage.

You probably know already that using tobacco can lead to health problems like lung cancer. Studies also suggest smokers are more likely to get psoriatic arthritis.

A study by a team of Danish researchers also shows that smokers are less likely to improve with medication and less likely to stick to their treatment plan.

You walk a fine line when it comes to your skin and the sun's ultraviolet rays. A little sun can be good for you and help prevent psoriasis. But too much time in the sun can damage your skin and trigger flares.

If you're at the beach, you may want to wear sunscreen and protective clothing. And limit your time in the sun.

It should be a no-brainer, but if you don't stick to instructions for taking your medicine, flare-ups can happen.

Don't stop, skip, or take the wrong amount of medicine. Always follow your doctor's orders.

Show Sources


Creakyjoints.org: "Psoriatic Arthritis Flare-Ups: Exactly What to Do When You Get One."

Mayo Clinic: "Maintain a Healthy Weight with Psoriatic Arthritis," "Sleep and Psoriatic Arthritis," "Manage Stress to Improve Psoriatic Arthritis Symptoms," "Lack of Sleep: Can It Make You Sick?"

Rheumatoid Arthritis Support Network: "Psoriatic Arthritis: Which Foods are Triggers and Which are Suppressants."

National Library of Medicine: "Alcohol Intake and Risk of Incident Psoriatic Arthritis in Women," "Harmful Interactions: Mixing Alcohol with Medicines."

Arthritis Foundation: "Managing Psoriatic Arthritis Flares," "Psoriatic Arthritis Blog."

National Psoriasis Foundation: "Smoking Makes Psoriatic Arthritis Drugs Less Effective," "Fatigue and psoriatic arthritis," "Tips for better sleep with psoriatic disease."

Papaa.org: "Psoriasis and the Sun."

NYU Langone Health: "Lifestyle Changes for Psoriatic Arthritis."

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