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Myths and Misconceptions About Psoriatic Arthritis

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: June 2022

Living with an autoimmune disease like psoriatic arthritis (PsA) can be challenging. There are many myths and misconceptions about psoriatic arthritis, which can make separating fact from fiction difficult. Knowing these myths and misconceptions about PsA can help you better understand the disease and know what treatment options work best for you.

Breaking down the stigma

Raising awareness and breaking down misconceptions can help eliminate stigma, one thing chronic conditions are most usually associated with - including psoriatic arthritis. While it may seem like the last thing we want to do - in addition to the chronic pain and emotional toll, it's important. Hopefully, this article can assist.

Myth: Psoriasis always leads to psoriatic arthritis

Not everyone who has psoriasis will develop PsA. Studies show that about 20 to 30 percent of people who have psoriasis will go on to develop PsA.1

Myth: Psoriatic arthritis only affects the joints

Along with the joints, PsA can affect the attachment points of tendons and ligaments. This can cause foot, leg, back, or arm pain.1,2

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Some people also experience psoriatic disease in their nail beds. This can cause pitting, crumbling, thickened nails, and pain.1,2

Myth: Psoriatic arthritis does not affect mental health

PsA is not just a physical disease. It affects mental health, too. About 1 out of every 3 people with PsA has depression and anxiety. In people with PsA, depression and anxiety can impact their jobs, disability, pain, and fatigue.2,3

Myth: Psoriatic arthritis is easy to diagnose

PsA is quite difficult to diagnose. Many people are misdiagnosed as having another condition, such as rheumatoid arthritis. Or they may go undiagnosed for a long time. This is because PsA has different signs and symptoms that vary from person to person.1,2

There is no single test that can determine if a person has PsA. A rheumatologist diagnoses PsA through a process of elimination and a variety of tests. These tests might include:2

  • Medical history
  • Physical exam
  • X-rays or other imaging scans like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT), or ultrasound
    Blood tests

Myth: A dermatologist can treat psoriatic arthritis

Since many people first develop psoriasis and are seen by a dermatologist for that condition, dermatologists may be the first to identify PsA symptoms. However, people with PsA or those who think they may have PsA should see a rheumatologist. A rheumatologist is a specialist who treats autoimmune conditions.2

Myth: Psoriatic arthritis can only be treated with medicine

While medicines are important in treating PsA, lifestyle approaches can help lessen pain, ease symptoms, and improve quality of life. Regular exercise is one such approach. Staying active can help with joint pain and joint function. It can also help to maintain a healthy weight and reduce stress.1,2

Obesity puts people at increased risk of developing PsA. You can reduce your risk by losing weight. For those who have PsA, losing weight can also improve how well your PsA medicine works.1,2

Myth: It does not matter when you start treatment for psoriatic arthritis

PsA is a chronic condition that can cause progressive joint damage, deformity, and loss of function. For this reason, doctors recommend early and aggressive treatment. When treatment is started early, the disease is controlled better. You may even reach the point where you have no signs and symptoms (remission).2

Myth: Psoriatic arthritis can be cured

There is currently no known cure for PsA. However, there are several treatment options that can help with pain and symptoms. In some cases, these treatments can even lead to remission.1,2

Myth: People living with psoriatic arthritis can stop treatment when they start to feel better

While PsA appears to be gone during periods of remission, the disease is still there. Flare-ups can still occur. They can be triggered by things like stress, diet, and alcohol. To best manage PsA, rheumatologists recommend continuing treatment even if you do not have any noticeable symptoms. This might mean adjusting medicine dosage.1,2

Learn the facts!

Myths and misconceptions about psoriatic arthritis are everywhere. If you have questions about something you hear or read, ask your doctor so you can learn the facts.

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