Psoriatic arthritis causes joint pain and inflammation, usually in people who already have psoriasis. It is impossible to predict who will get psoriatic arthritis, however, and there is no surefire strategy for preventing it.
Preventive strategies for psoriasis focus on identifying triggers and treating symptoms early. Doing so may prevent psoriasis from transitioning to psoriatic arthritis.
In this article, learn about treatment and prevention strategies for psoriatic arthritis, as well as the risk factors for developing it.
Doctors do not know how to prevent psoriatic arthritis.
Currently, no treatment can guarantee that a person with psoriasis will not develop this form of arthritis.
Also, because a small number of people develop psoriatic arthritis without skin symptoms of psoriasis, it can be difficult to identify everyone who is at risk.
A 2019 medical review article highlights the many challenges that doctors face in trying to prevent psoriatic arthritis. Doctors do not fully understand how or why the disease progresses or who is at risk.
More research could, one day, answer these questions. For now, controlling the symptoms of psoriasis before it progresses into arthritis may help reduce the severity of both diseases.
People with psoriatic arthritis typically develop symptoms about 10 years after they get psoriasis.
Anyone with concerns about the progression of the disease should speak with a doctor about the outlook and managing the symptoms.
No specific treatment can prevent psoriatic arthritis, but the right treatment may lessen the severity of the disease.
Both psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis are autoimmune diseases, which means that they occur when the body attacks healthy tissue.
People with psoriatic arthritis develop active inflammation in the joints, as well as markers of inflammation in the blood.
Tests for inflammation may help assess whether a person is at risk of psoriatic arthritis, and working to prevent inflammation may help reduce symptoms of the disease.
For people who develop psoriatic arthritis, the right treatment can minimize disease activity. It may also reduce markers of the disease enough to achieve remission.
A 2010 study explored the outcomes of treatment with antitumor necrosis factor alpha — which involves using biologic medication to reduce inflammation — in people with psoriatic arthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.
The researchers found that, after 1 year of treatment, psoriatic arthritis was in remission in 58% of the people with the disease, compared with 44% of the people with rheumatoid arthritis.
Most people experience psoriatic arthritis as a series of symptom flares. The characteristics of these flares vary from person to person, but many notice a specific pattern.
For example, some people find that psoriasis skin symptoms get worse, or that they feel more fatigued before their joints start to ache.
Tracking symptoms can help a person and their doctor identify the pattern of flares. It may help to take note of meals and new foods, weather changes, stress levels, exercise, and other lifestyle and environmental factors, both between and during flares.
Some common flare triggers include:
- skipping or stopping psoriasis medication
- skin injuries or infections
- joint injuries, such as a stubbed toe or twisted ankle
- moderate or severe stress
Some people find that the following strategies help reduce the severity and frequency of flares:
- exercising regularly
- managing stress with techniques such as yoga and meditation
- trying complementary treatments, such as acupuncture and chiropractic care
- maintaining a healthy body weight
- getting enough sleep
Some people choose to avoid certain triggering foods or to follow an anti-inflammatory diet.
The Arthritis Foundation recommend eating foods that can reduce inflammation, including:
- salmon, tuna, and other cold water fish
- nuts and seeds
- olive oil
Reducing salt and alcohol intake may also help curb inflammation. Learn more about an anti-inflammatory diet in this article.
While lifestyle changes can make a big difference, they are not always enough to treat symptoms or prevent flares.
A doctor can offer a wide range of treatments to help with pain and stiffness. Biologic medications, for example, are highly effective for many people.
A doctor may also recommend:
- steroid medications
- topical creams
- pain relief medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs
If a person thinks that they may have early symptoms of psoriatic arthritis, they should speak to a doctor.
Also, consult a doctor about:
- unexplained skin patches or scales
- new or worsening psoriasis symptoms
- new or worsening arthritis symptoms
- psoriatic arthritis that stops responding to treatment
Medication may not cure psoriatic arthritis, but it can prevent joint damage. This means that early, aggressive treatment may offer lasting benefits.
People who develop joint pain or stiffness should see a doctor, even if they do not think that they have psoriasis.
During a person’s first few flares, frequent and regular communication with a doctor can help them better understand the disease and identify effective treatments.
Do not stop taking psoriatic arthritis medication without talking to a doctor. When symptoms clear up, it is a sign that the treatment is working, not that it is time to stop the treatment. Some people find that their flares get much worse when they stop using their medication.
Psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis are complex diseases. They likely develop due to a combination of genetics, inflammation, factors such as skin and joint injuries, and specific psoriasis triggers.
There is no psoriatic arthritis prevention strategy, but getting prompt and effective treatment can help reduce the frequency and severity of symptoms.
A rheumatologist can identify risk factors for psoriatic arthritis and help minimize the chances of developing the disease.
However, there is no way to predict who will get psoriatic arthritis and no surefire way to prevent this inflammatory joint disease.
Doctors, loved ones, and support groups can help a person manage stress and their psoriatic arthritis symptoms.