Managing Psoriatic Arthritis In The Hands
A year ago, I was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis. I can still clearly remember how painful it was, and how it has made me immobile for how many months. I had difficulty walking because my knees and my feet hurt, but it was harder for me to move my hands and lift my arms.
The common hand symptoms of PsA
As much as I tried to tolerate and bear with the pain, my breaking point was when my hands hurt so much that I cried after I tried to close the lid of my highlighter. That’s how I knew something was definitely wrong.
Here’s a list of the common symptoms of hand psoriatic arthritis and a few tips on how I was able to manage them.
Swollen fingers and stiff hand joints
Fingers can be painful, red, and swollen. At times, it can also feel warm. Some people develop dactylitis which occurs when fingers are so swollen that they mimic the shape of sausages.
During my first few months of diagnosis, it was hard for me to lift my phone and send a text message. My fingers hurt so much that I couldn’t close my hand and stretch or extend my fingers.
A few home remedies which helped me deal with swollen joints are wearing compression gloves and splints, using cold packs, massaging my hands with ointments, taking pain relievers, and performing a few hand motion exercises.
Aside from changes in my skin due to patches and dryness, I have also noticed changes in my nails as they appeared to be dry and bumpy. My nails were hard and painful to touch. Some people experience deformation and discoloration, while others develop onycholysis which exists when nails are separated from the nail bed.
Treatment for nail pitting involves a long-term process that couldn’t be easily cured by ointments, oils, and lotions. What helped stop my nail pitting was when I started taking prednisone.
I also make sure that I have them scraped and polished regularly to address the cracks and dryness while cautiously making sure that it won’t trigger more pitting.
Reduced range of motion
Pain, swelling, and stiffness on the hands and fingers result in a limitation of movement. It was painful to move and extend my arm and I had to ask for help for the littlest thing.
Moreover, even doing the simplest chore seems impossible too. What I've learned is it's okay to make use of assistive devices, such as mobility aids, or those which help perform tasks.
For instance, devices that help open jars and cans, cut and peel fruits and vegetables, or other devices that make life more convenient.
Being healed is not the goal
Fast forward to today, after trying different diets, using different ointments, and taking different medications, I am feeling relatively better. But certainly, there are still days where I just couldn't move at all. Although the pain is still there, and it never really went away, I have learned that being totally healed is not to goal.
The goal is to finally learn how to manage my chronic illness, and figure out how I can navigate my way through it.
Do you have a sleep disorder (eg. insomnia, sleep apnea, RLS) in addition to your PsA?