5 Rheumatologist Tips for People With Psoriatic Arthritis

By

Douglas Lienesch, MD

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I practiced as a general internist for 10 years, and in that time, I noticed my patients with chronic arthritis conditions could improve tremendously with good care, medications, and therapy. I felt so inspired by their progress I decided to go back to school and train in rheumatology so I could deliver that care to all of my patients. Now, about 15 years later, I feel very fortunate to be able to assist my patients in getting their conditions under control and their lives back to normal. In those 15 years, I’ve gained a lot of insight into what it takes to manage psoriatic arthritis, a disease in which inflammation in the joints causes pain, swelling, and damage. It’s an exciting time to be treating the disease, since there’s a significant number of new drugs available to help patients. But there’s more to managing psoriatic arthritis than just medication. Here are some of the tips I share with my patients about staying on top of their condition.

1. Seek out a rheumatologist.

People with psoriatic arthritis should be under the care of a rheumatologist. Rheumatologists are specially trained to treat conditions like psoriatic arthritis, and are best equipped to explain what’s going on and walk patients through the different treatment options. I try to explain things comprehensively to my patients so they understand what’s happening in their body and how the treatments will affect them. It’s important they have the right expectations of treatment and have a clear understanding of the disease. When treating psoriatic arthritis, the earlier, the better. A rheumatologist will be able to spot the symptoms of psoriatic arthritis more quickly and get you started on appropriate treatment sooner so there’s less permanent damage done to your joints.

2. Find your team.

Treating psoriatic arthritis requires a team approach. Team members include your primary care doctor, rheumatologist, dermatologist, and other health care providers like physical therapists. You are the captain of the team, and your team members need to work together to decide which treatments will be the most beneficial for you. Make sure your doctor educates you about psoriatic arthritis and takes the time to answer any questions you might have. If you’re knowledgeable about your disease and  your treatment options, you’ll do better.

3. Stay positive.

Receiving a diagnosis of psoriatic arthritis can be frightening for many people. When someone tells you have a potentially disabling arthritic condition, it can be overwhelming. People wonder what they’re going to experience over time—will they be in a wheelchair or able to function normally? I tell my patients up front that our goal is to control this condition and maintain full function. We may not get there right away, and you may have to be patient as we try different treatments, but we’re going to keep working on it until we achieve our goals.

4. Get educated.

An educated patient is an empowered patient. There are plenty of resources available for patients to learn more about psoriatic arthritis and how to manage it. I direct my patients to the large collection of information on the American College of Rheumatology website, and every community has a local Arthritis Foundation that has extensive resources. The National Psoriasis Foundation also has a strong web presence and offers a lot of educational information. When you know more about your disease, you’re better able to stay in control of it, so I encourage all my patients to do their research.

5. Live a healthy life.

Psoriatic arthritis is more common in people who are overweight or obese, which is why it’s so important to maintain a healthy diet and exercise program. Several studies have shown that medications work better and the disease is better controlled when people lose weight. Weight loss is challenging, so working with a nutritionist is often necessary.  And exercise can be difficult for people with arthritis, so we often start an exercise program under the supervision of a physical therapist. Many of my patients find that aquatherapy or water aerobics is a great way to get back to an active lifestyle.



THIS CONTENT DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. This content is provided for informational purposes and reflects the opinions of the author. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare professional regarding your health. If you think you may have a medical emergency, contact your doctor immediately or call 911.


Dr Douglas Lienesch

Douglas Lienesch, MD

Douglas Lienesch, MD, is Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and the Program Director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Rheumatology Fellowship Training Program. View his Healthgrades profile here > 

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