Psoriatic arthritis is estimated to impact up to 1% of the population. The condition can cause pain and stiffness and is associated with psoriasis. As a form of inflammatory arthritis, psoriatic arthritis is an autoimmune condition that occurs when the body confuses healthy tissues for bad tissues and begins to attack them. Approximately 30% of people with psoriasis will suffer from this condition. In this blog we will review the causes and symptoms of psoriatic arthritis, as well as what natural treatments for psoriatic arthritis may help.
Causes of Psoriatic Arthritis
Doctors are still trying to determine the cause of psoriatic arthritis. While the type of arthritis is linked to psoriasis, not everyone with psoriasis will suffer from this condition. Two of the main factors that doctors believe add to the risk of arthritis are:
- Genetics - If a person’s parents have psoriasis, they’re three times more likely to have psoriasis.
- Infection - Due to the condition being auto-immune related, a person often has an infection prior to the condition presenting itself. Strep throat, for example, is often what triggers psoriasis if it’s not related to genetics.
Since both causes are out of a person’s control, there is little that can be done to stop psoriasis arthritis from occurring.
There are two main types of psoriatic arthritis:
- Polyarticular - which impacts four or more joints and is the most severe form.
- Oligoarticular - which impacts no more than four joints and is milder than its polyarticular counterpart. Certain risk factors can increase your risk of psoriasis and this form of arthritis. Age is one factor, with most people suffering from this arthritis being between the age of 30 and 50. Nearly 40% of people that suffer from this condition have a family history of either the joint disease or skin condition caused by psoriasis.
Symptoms of Psoriatic Arthritis
Arthritis is a serious condition impacting the joints and causing inflammation. When a person suffers from psoriatic arthritis, they experience a wide range of symptoms that include:
- Eye pain or redness
- Foot pain
- Loss of range of motion
- Back pain
- Scaly skin
- Morning stiffness and/or tiredness
- Tendon swelling
- Tendon pain
- Swelling of the fingers or toes
A person with this form of arthritis will experience pain on both sides of the body. You may have bumps under the skin, and you may also notice changes to your nails or skin.
Arthritis will impact different parts of the body, including:
Spondylitis is when arthritis impacts your spine and causes pain in several key areas, such as the neck, back, and vertebrae. As the connective tissue is attacked, it will cause damage to ligaments and other tissues, which will eventually lead to arthritis in the feet, arms, hips, and legs.
The entheses are where the ligaments and tendons connect to the bones. Oftentimes, this condition will impact the ligaments and tendons that connect to your feet, spine, pelvis, and ribs. The tissue in these areas can start to become solid or loosen.
The digits, or fingers and toes, will suffer from dactylitis. The condition leads to the swelling of the fingers or toes. Oftentimes, the digits will be called “sausages” due to the swelling of the digit.
The tendons become inflamed this is often one of the first symptoms people with this form of arthritis experience.
Diagnosing Psoriatic Arthritis
A doctor can diagnose the condition by learning about a person's family history and considering the symptoms a person is experiencing. An examination will determine how the joints move, if range of motion is lost or affected, and if any swelling is present.
Tests can also help diagnose the condition, including:
- CT scans
- Blood tests
- Fluid from the joints for testing
Diagnosing the condition and managing the symptoms is recommended. If the condition is allowed to continue without treatment, it can lead to symptoms getting progressively worse.
Natural Treatments for Psoriatic Arthritis
While natural treatments can help alleviate symptoms, they will not cure your arthritis. Soothing the plaques caused by psoriasis and soothing your joints is what many of these natural treatments have to offer. A few of the natural treatments that are most effective are:
A potent anti-inflammatory, the curcumin in turmeric is known for being able to help ease symptoms of psoriatic arthritis. One study found that curcumin may help change some gene functions that are responsible for inflammation and swelling.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
The Arthritis Foundation has suggested diets that can help combat arthritis and the inflammation of the joints that occurs. The Foundation claims that a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids can help alleviate inflammation.
Fish is a potent source of these essential fatty acids. Fish oils can reduce inflammation and lead to pain relief in the process. Cold-water fish has the highest natural source of fish oils.
The compound found in chili peppers, capsaicin is known for numbing the pain receptors in the body. These receptors are responsible for feeling pain associated with arthritis. Ointments and rubs can be used on the impacted area to help alleviate pain. When applying directly to the skin, the treatment can last up to eight hours.
CBD oils and topicals are highly sought for pain relief. Studies conducted on animals found that CBD is able to relieve pain while also calming inflammation. There's a lack of human studies on CBD due to the compound just starting to be accepted as an alternative treatment.
However, An Investigational New Drug application to conduct advanced clinical trials for cancer pain was approved by the US FDA in January 2006. They found that cannabinoids like CBD will attach themselves to specialized receptors in a person’s brain and immune system. The CB2 receptor, in particular, can play a significant role in managing pain and inflammation. As CBD enters your body, it can attach to your CB2 receptors. CBD can also prompt your body to produce natural cannabinoids that attach to these receptors. This is why researchers have come to believe that CBD can have a significant impact on chronic pain.
Federal restrictions caused a lack of significant studies, but there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence that CBD can help relieve pain and ease inflammation. Meaning CBD may be an option for arthritis pain relief.
It's important to note that pain relief from CBD is similar to that of over-the-counter medications without many of the side effects.
Interestingly, there has been no link between Vitamin D and pain relief from psoriatic arthritis. The reason that this supplement is recommended is that a large portion of people that have this form of arthritis have a Vitamin D deficiency.
It's suggested that this deficiency may be responsible for some people with psoriasis getting arthritis and others not.
Supplements or dietary changes can help increase Vitamin D levels. Milk, cereal and simply spending time in the sun is enough to improve a person's Vitamin D to sufficient levels.
Therapy for arthritis often includes stretching to help keep the joints limber and prevent tightness from setting in. You should include 15 minutes of exercise in your daily routine.
A physical therapist can assist with creating a daily stretching routine, or there are a lot of guides online that can help.
Along with a stretching routine, exercise provides many benefits for someone experiencing arthritis pain. Exercise will help alleviate or prevent stiffness, improve muscle strength and help reduce potential morning fatigue.
Exercise also helps a person maintain their weight, allowing for less stress on the already swollen joints. One study found that only two sessions of resistance training per week was able to improve overall function of people suffering from arthritis.
When applied topically, DMSO is quickly absorbed into the deeper tissues. When mixed with other substances, DMSO can also enhance the absorption of that substance. In addition to being a spectacular carrier, it also has anti-inflammatory characteristics that can help relieve joint and muscle pain.
Studies have indicated that DMSO’s capacity of a free-radical scavenger plays an important role in its effects on arthritis. The Committee of Clinical Drug Trials of the Japanese Rheumatism Association conducted a trial with 318 patients and concluded that DMSO both relieved joint pain and increased range of motion and grip strength.
DMSO is still used for arthritis widely around the world.
Psoriatic arthritis doesn’t have a cure – yet – but the treatments above can help. Managing symptoms and swelling can help stop tendons from sustaining long-term damage.