Psoriatic Arthritis Myths & Facts

Myth: Psoriasis always leads to psoriatic arthritis.

Facts: Not everyone who has psoriasis will develop psoriatic arthritis. It is estimated that psoriatic arthritis occurs in 30% to 40% of people with psoriasis.1

Myth: Psoriatic arthritis only affects the joints.

Facts: In addition to the joints, psoriatic arthritis can also inflame the attachment points of tendons and ligaments, the entheses, causing enthesitis. Some people also experience psoriatic disease in their nail beds, causing pitting, crumbling, thickened nails, and/or pain.2,3

Myth: Psoriatic arthritis affects physical health – not mental health.

Facts: People with psoriatic arthritis are twice as likely to be depressed as those with psoriasis alone, and they are also more likely to have clinical depression and anxiety. Depression and anxiety in psoriatic arthritis patients is highly associated with unemployment, severe disease, disability, pain, and fatigue.4

Myth: There’s a simple test to determine if you have psoriatic arthritis.

Facts: Psoriatic arthritis is very difficult to diagnose, in part because the disease presents in a number of different ways among patients. There is no single test that can determine if a patient has psoriatic arthritis, and tests to determine diagnosis may include a physical exam, x-rays or other imaging studies (MRI, CT, ultrasound), a blood test to rule out rheumatoid arthritis, and medical history.5

Myth: A dermatologist can treat psoriatic arthritis.

Facts: Since many patients first develop psoriasis and are seen by a dermatologist for that condition, dermatologists may be the first to identify that a patient’s symptoms may be caused by psoriatic arthritis. However, people with psoriatic arthritis or who suspect they may have psoriatic arthritis should see a rheumatologist, a specialist that focuses on autoimmune conditions.1,5

Myth: The only treatment for psoriatic arthritis is medication.

Facts: While treatment with medications is important, there are several lifestyle approaches that also benefit psoriatic arthritis patients. Regular exercise is important to maintain joint function. Many psoriatic arthritis patients are obese, and losing weight can help reduce the risk of developing other conditions like diabetes and heart disease. Losing weight has also shown a benefit in increasing the effectiveness of psoriatic arthritis medications.5,6

Myth: If a treatment doesn’t work immediately on psoriatic arthritis symptoms, the patient should stop and try another.

Facts: Some psoriatic arthritis treatments take time before a benefit is seen, particularly the biologics. Some biologics may take several months before reducing pain, although recent studies show that biologics quickly demonstrate a positive effect on mood.5

Myth: It doesn’t matter when you start treatment for psoriatic arthritis.

Facts: Because psoriatic arthritis is a chronic condition that can cause progressive joint damage, deformity, and loss of function, early and aggressive treatment is recommended. Early treatment provides the best approach to prevent or delay the devastating effects of the disease.1

Myth: Vaccinations are always the best thing to do for your health.

Facts: People with psoriatic arthritis who are taking biologic treatments should talk to their doctor before getting any vaccine. Some vaccines contain live viruses, such as flu mist, shingles, measles/mumps/rubella, typhoid, varicella, small pox, and yellow fever vaccines. These live virus vaccines should only be taken 1-3 months before starting biologic drugs.5,7

Myth: Psoriatic arthritis can be cured.

Facts: At this time, there is no known cure for psoriatic arthritis, although there are several treatment options that can help, and in some cases, provide remission. Remission implies the reversibility of functional impairment, minimal or no progression to joint destruction, and, at least in theory, potential to heal a damaged joint.8

Myth: Psoriatic arthritis patients can stop treatment when they feel better.

Facts: Although psoriatic arthritis appears to be gone during periods of remission, the disease does not cease to exist. Studies show that about 75% of patients had a recurrence of disease activity within 6 months of stopping medication, and most of them experienced a flare within the first 2-3 months. Rheumatologists recommend continuing treatment to continue to manage psoriatic arthritis.7

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Written by: Emily Downward | Last reviewed: October 2016.