Have Psoriasis? Heres How You Can Reduce Your Risk of Psoriatic Arthritis

If you’re living with psoriasis and are worried about developing psoriatic arthritis, you may be wondering how high your risk is — and whether you can reduce it or even eliminate it altogether.

Psoriatic arthritis is common among people with psoriasis, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF), affecting about one in three, and often developing about 10 years after psoriasis does. And while the exact cause of psoriatic arthritis is still unknown, genetics play a key role.

“There is a strong hereditary component, especially in first degree relatives. Certain genes are higher risk for creating the specific inflammation marker we see in psoriasis,” says Masoom Modi, MD, a rheumatologist and assistant clinical professor of medicine at the University of California in Los Angeles.

Other factors that contribute to psoriatic arthritis risk include how much of your skin is affected by psoriasis, where the psoriasis is located, and whether you have any other autoimmune diseases, explains Dr. Modi.

“Usually people with more severe psoriasis are at higher risk, as well as certain categories of psoriasis — inverse, scalp, psoriatic nail disease,” says Modi, adding, “Some people who have inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, may carry a risk of developing psoriatic arthritis, or a subtype called enteropathic arthritis.”

Maintain a Healthy Weight to Lower Your Psoriatic Arthritis Risk

“There is no question there is a link between obesity and psoriasis, and that there is a higher link in those with obesity of developing psoriatic arthritis on top of psoriasis,” says Eric Ruderman, MD, a rheumatologist and professor of medicine in the division of rheumatology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

Maintaining a healthy weight plays a vital role in lowering psoriatic arthritis risk, says Modi. Not only can weight loss decrease inflammation in your body if you’re overweight or obese but it can also relieve stress on your joints and tendons, Modi adds. “Extra weight leads to higher demands on the joints and tendons, which can cascade into increased inflammation,” she says.

So, how can you reach a healthy weight? One key step is to stick to a healthy, anti-inflammatory diet — which is often recommended for people with psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis, according to the NPF. Some anti-inflammatory foods you can try are:

  • Tomatoes
  • Olive oil
  • Nuts, including walnuts and almonds
  • Green leafy vegetables, such as kale and spinach
  • Fruit, such as cherries, blueberries, oranges, and strawberries
  • Fatty fish, including salmon, tuna, sardines, and mackerel

Dr. Ruderman also recommends limiting processed foods and excess sugar. “A more balanced diet with lots of veggies is always encouraged. Diet is not one size fits all. This may also include going on an elimination diet [a short term diet where you cut out a particular food for two to four weeks to see if your symptoms decline, according to Harvard Health] to determine which foods may trigger your psoriatic arthritis symptoms,” he explains.

On top of diet, staying physically active is another important part of any weight management toolbox. According to the NPF, people with psoriasis should aim to fit in 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day for at least five days a week, along with additional strength-training exercises.

Wondering what exercises to try? The NPF specifically recommends yoga and tai chi to promote flexibility and range of motion.

Care for Your Mental Health to Lower Your Odds of Developing Psoriatic Arthritis

Your mental health could play an important role in preventing psoriatic arthritis. In fact, Modi says stress and anxiety are underrated modifiable risk factors for psoriatic arthritis.

“We tend to think that our mental health does not have an impact on our physical symptoms, when in fact, stress and anxiety have an impact on our bodies’ cortisol levels,” says Modi. “This can directly lead to disruptions in our metabolism and the inflammation cascade.”

Incorporating self-care into your daily routine can give your mental health a boost. According to the Arthritis Foundation, self-care could include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Massage
  • Yoga
  • Physical activity
  • Healthy nutrition
  • Meditation
  • Visualization
  • Support groups

Last, But Not Least: Be Diligent About Your Psoriasis Medication

Modi adds that managing psoriasis with medication may play a role in staving off psoriatic arthritis.

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