10 Red Flags of a Psoriatic Arthritis Flareby Julie Cerrone Croner Patient Advocate
Each of us are unique. We experience different symptoms that manifest differently in our bodies. The following are 10 red flags that might indicate you’re having a psoriatic arthritis flare. You may experience some, all, or none of these in your own experience. Always consult your rheumatologist and/or dermatologist if you believe you’re having a psoriatic arthritis flare-up.
Often when a psoriatic arthritis flare-up begins, you feel very “off.” Personally, I feel like I have the flu. I get achy all over, chills, and feel like I’m running a fever (even if I’m not). This can feel very different in each of us, but a general feeling of discomfort and uneasiness is common.
Sleep is when our body has the chance to heal. We’re supposed to wake up rejuvenated and rested. But psoriatic arthritis can make you feel unrested even after 12 hours of sleep. You wake up stiff and exhausted. Couple that with fatigue and even the smallest of tasks seems impossible. Walking up your steps may feel like scaling Mt. Everest and getting out of bed may seem like running a marathon. Fatigue is a common symptom of a psoriatic arthritis flare.
Given the nature of psoriatic arthritis, it’s very common for flare-ups of psoriasis to happen alongside flares of psoriatic arthritis. This will absolutely look different in everyone. Some may not experience any psoriasis, while others may be covered in pink plaques of raised skin. Personally, when I have a flare-up, I break out with psoriasis around my hairline. Whenever you have a flare-up of your psoriasis, be on guard for your psoriatic arthritis to flare, too.
Asymmetrical joint pain and swelling
With psoriatic arthritis, stiffness, pain and throbbing of your joints is par for the course. Typically psoriatic arthritis will present asymmetrically in your joints: one joint may flare up but not the other. For instance, my left sacroiliac (SI) joint and knee and my right wrist and elbow are most commonly affected. Each psoriatic arthritic patient will have different joints affected, so be on the lookout for which of your joints are your main culprits.
Sacroiliac joint and back pain
Psoriatic arthritis is a type of spondyloarthritis, an umbrella term for inflammatory conditions that involve the joints and the entheses, or places where the ligaments and tendons attach to the bones. With these diseases, there is often stiffness, swelling, spine pain (upper, lower, or mid-back pain), and SI joint pain. For me, my left SI joint causes me a lot of pain when I have a flare.
Many patients complain of knee pain with psoriatic arthritis. Chronic inflammation of your joints and tendons can cause pain, swelling, and heat from your knee joints. In fact, my psoriatic arthritis journey started with knee problems. When I was in fifth grade, my knee swelled up and caused me numerous problems. I know that pain in my knees are a key indicator of an impending flare-up.
Hand and finger pain
Tenderness, pain, and swelling in tendons can cause lots of problems within patients’ hands and forearms. Often psoriatic arthritis patients will experience “sausage digits,” where your finger will swell between the joints and around the joints. For me, when this happens, my forearms often feels like they’re on “pins and needles.”
Feet and toe pain
You can experience “sausage digits” in your toes, as well. In addition, you can also experience feet, heel, and ankle pain. And don’t think that having your feet covered by socks and shoes protects you from a psoriasis outbreak there, too. Red, scaly skin can find its way to the soles of your feet and in between your toes.
Many autoimmune arthritis patients will experience vision problems when they have flare-ups of their psoriatic arthritis. Blurred vision, redness and/or pain in the eyes can occur. For me, whenever I feel a flare coming on, my eyes always get red and burn.
Look for more symptoms
I have named a few red flags of a flare-up, but there are many others, as well. You may have joint pain in your jaw, elbow, or shoulders. You may experience digestive issues, anxiety, or any number of symptoms. It’s important to always be cognizant of your body and take the time to check in. If you can get ahead of a flare before it gets worse, you’ll be better off in the long run! Be prepared and get a game plan in place for if you run into any of these 10 red flags.