First things first: Psoriasis does not always lead to psoriatic arthritis.
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.
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I've treated hundreds of patients
with psoriatic arthritis, and
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I've seen a lot of misconceptions
that patients, family members, and
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loved ones have about the disease.
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Let's clear up some of the major myths.
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It's a myth that if you have psoriasis,
you're doomed to get psoriatic arthritis.
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Fewer than one-third of people with
psoriasis get psoriatic arthritis.
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It's a myth that having a severe
case of psoriasis means you'll get
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psoriatic arthritis or
have a severe case of it.
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But you can have just a few
psoriasis lesions, but
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many joints affected by arthritis.
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It's a myth that psoriasis is contagious.
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I feel for my patients who have bad skin
lesions and have to deal with the stigma.
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No-one can catch psoriasis or
psoriatic arthritis from you.
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It's a myth that only older adults
are affected by psoriatic arthritis.
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Most people are diagnosed between ages 30
and 50, but it can develop at any age.
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It's a myth that there's an easy test
to diagnose psoriatic arthritis.
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We diagnose patents after doing a physical
exam, hearing about patients symptoms and
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potentially doing blood work
to rule out other diseases.
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We sometimes do X-rays of the joints and
spine to look for damage and
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It's a myth that exercise makes
your psoriatic arthritis worse.
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The opposite is actually true,
moderate exercise can relieve pain and
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stiffness, but you don't want to overly
stress a joint that's actively inflamed.
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Listen to your body, stop when
things hurt, and don't overdo it.
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It's a myth that a dermatologist
can treat psoriatic arthritis.
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If you're already seeing a dermatologist
for psoriasis, when arthritis symptoms
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crop up, you might think you don't
need to see a different doctor, but
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arthritis can be different.
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It's a good idea to see a rheumatologist
to get an official psoriatic arthritis
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explore your treatment options.
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Finally, it's a myth that you
can stop taking your medications
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if you start feeling better.
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This is something to discuss with
your doctor, but with many patients,
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when people stop taking their medications
their symptoms usually come back.
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5 psoriatic arthritis myths debunked. Atlanta, GA: Arthritis Foundation. (Accessed on September 20, 2017 at http://blog.arthritis.org/psoriatic-arthritis/psoriatic-arthritis-facts-myths/.)
Exercise. Portland, OR: National Psoriasis Foundation. (Accessed on September 20, 2017 at https://www.psoriasis.org/treating-psoriasis/complementary-and-alternative/exercise.)