9 Invisible Ways Psoriatic Arthritis Affects Your Bodyby Tracy Davenport, Ph.D. Health Writer
Psoriatic arthritis flares come and go, and with them come symptoms that may be different than you ever imagined. We usually think of swollen joints, perhaps accompanied by flaky, red patches, when we think about the impact of psoriatic arthritis. But really it can affect the whole body—sometimes in ways people can’t see. Keep reading to find out nine ways your psoriatic arthritis might manifest on your body and how to minimize some of the effects.
Your Anxiety Is Through the Roof
Who wouldn’t be anxious when out of nowhere you cannot get out of bed or your toes don’t want to go into your shoes? The emotional impact of psoriatic arthritis is real, says Karen Smarr, Ph.D., a clinical professor at the University of Missouri. In fact, those with chronic pain associated with conditions like psoriatic arthritis are more likely to develop an anxiety disorder than the general population according to a study published in Trends in Neurosciences. Talk to your rheumatologist about what you are feeling because chances are they have a treatment plan ready to personalize just for you, plus some great therapist and support group referrals.
Your Vision Is Blurry
Psoriatic arthritis can affect the eyes causing inflammation that starts inside the eye, in the uvea, and can spread to other parts of the eye. Symptoms range from mild conjunctivitis (pink eye) to severe (uveitis), with pain, blurred vision or floating spots. “This inflammation, if left untreated, can damage eye tissues resulting in vision loss,” says David Reed, O.D., an adjunct faculty member of the Pennsylvania, New England and Southern Colleges of Optometry. If you have psoriatic arthritis, an eye exam will look for these tell-tale signs of inflammation. If your doctor diagnoses you with uveitis, you may be treated with eye drops and anti-inflammatory medications.
You’re Tired as All Get Out
More fatigue than usual could signify increased inflammatory disease activity, also known as a flare. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, proteins called cytokines that are released during inflammatory reactions lead to the fatigue. The zap in energy could also be related to medications that are sometimes prescribed for psoriatic arthritis, or it could be an indication that you just need to slow down and rest (because, don’t we all!). But if the fatigue is frequent, it’s worth letting your rheumatologist know.
Your Feet Hurt…All the Time
People with psoriatic arthritis often develop tenderness or pain where tendons and ligaments attach to bones. This commonly occurs at the heel (Achilles tendinitis) or at the bottom of the foot (plantar fasciitis). Foot pain can quickly become debilitating, especially if you’re the get-up-and-go type. Reach out to a foot specialist as soon as possible, but in the meantime, there are several things you can do. Wear supportive shoes and put the brakes on going barefoot around the house (or anywhere). Before bed, gently stretch and massage your foot by rolling it over a tennis ball for 10 minutes to instantly relieve some of the pain.
You Feel Sad
According to the Arthritis Foundation, more than 20 percent of people with psoriatic arthritis have depression. One theory is that the proteins involved in the inflammatory process, may also be linked to an increased sensitivity to stress. Because depression seems to be linked to inflammation, your doctor may bump up your treatment to include a systemic medication such as a biologic drug that targets the root cause of inflammation. If you are still not feeling better, cognitive behavioral therapy, a proven successful treatment for depression, may be recommended.
Your Back Hurts
Back pain in people with psoriatic arthritis can vary, but according to the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, it has been reported to be as high as 78%. Early intervention for back pain is key to staving off long-term joint damage. If your work involves long hours at a computer or sitting in a driver’s seat, be sure to take frequent stretch breaks to loosen the muscles around your neck and back. Yoga may also help you keep your range of motion in check and give your back a little TLC.
Doc Says You Might Have Heart Disease
People with psoriatic arthritis are about 40% more likely to have or develop cardiovascular disease compared with people without PsA, according to a large study published in Arthritis Care and Research. One thought is that the systemic inflammation that drives your psoriatic disease can also be the reason for heart disease, similarly to eye problems. Inflammation can cause your blood vessels to become inflamed which can cause the buildup of plaque inside your artery walls. Plaque can slow blood flow and lead to heart disease. On the bright side, treating your psoriatic arthritis with medication can reduce your chances for cardiovascular disease.
You Have Another Autoimmune Condition
Autoimmune diseases are thought to be caused by a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you have one autoimmune condition, then you at least have a genetic predisposition to other autoimmune disorders. A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that having psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis increases the risk of developing autoimmune Graves’ disease and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. The same cells that are responsible for the inflammation in psoriatic disease may also be involved in thyroid disease. If you are experiencing sudden fatigue, weight gain or loss, or neck discomfort, see your doctor for a thyroid screening and evaluation.
It’s Hard to Breathe
A report in the British Journal of Dermatology showed that chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) was more likely to occur in patients with psoriasis (which many people with psoriatic arthritis have) compared to patients without. It is hypothesized that one inflammatory disease significantly increases the risk of another, even though the initial cause of one disease may be different than the cause of the other. During a flare, it may feel harder than normal to do strenuous activity. Even though this symptom might not seem related to your psoriatic arthritis, it is important to let you your doctor know what you are feeling.