When patients are first diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis, an inflammatory disease that strikes the skin and joints, they have lots of questions, says Leah Alon, MD, of the Harlem Health Center and Queens Health Center in New York City. Many might be familiar with psoriasis or with arthritis, but not necessarily with psoriatic arthritis, which has symptoms of both. These are some of the common myths and misunderstandings that Dr. Alon discusses with her patients.
Myth: A severe case of psoriasis leads to a severe case of psoriatic arthritis.
Reality: The severity of the two conditions are not necessarily related. You could have a severe case of psoriasis and no psoriatic arthritis or a mild case, or a mild case of psoriasis and a severe case of psoriatic arthritis.
Myth: Psoriasis is contagious.
Reality: Nope. “I feel for my patients who have bad skin lesions and have to deal with this stigma,” says Dr. Alon. “No one can catch psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis from you.”
Myth: Psoriatic arthritis only affects older adults.
Reality: It can develop at any age (but most people are diagnosed between age 30 and 50).
Myth: A test can easily diagnose psoriatic arthritis.
Reality: To diagnose a patient, doctors need to do a physical exam, ask about symptoms, do bloodwork to rule out other conditions, and possibly do x-rays of the joint and spine.
Myth: Exercise makes psoriatic arthritis worse.
Reality: Quite the opposite. Moderate exercise can relieve pain and stiffness, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation. Just don’t overdo it. Here’s more advice on how to exercise safely with psoriatic arthritis.
Myth: A dermatologist can treat psoriatic arthritis.
Reality: A derm might be able to treat psoriasis, but treatment is different for psoriatic arthritis. You’ll want to see a rheumatologist for proper treatment.
Myth: You can stop taking medication if you start feeling better.
Reality: Don’t ditch your meds without first talking to your doctor. “With many patients, when people stop taking their medications, their symptoms usually come back,” says Dr. Alon.