Coping With Psoriatic Arthritis
Fighting a Lack of Confidence With Psoriatic Arthritis
Alice Gottlieb, MD, PhD, chair of dermatology and dermatologist-in-chief at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, often sees her patients' self-confidence torn down by psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. Although they are not all clinically depressed, they may often have a terrible self-image, says Gottlieb: "And many people who don't have the disease are happy to reinforce that image."
Instead of beating yourself up or letting other's expectations get you down, pick yourself up by:
- Building your self-esteem. Psoriatic arthritis is a factor in your life. But it doesn't have to define who you are. Don't shy away from others. Join a support group and spend more time with friends. Doing so can help you feel more comfortable with yourself and feel less self-conscious. "I've seen a lot of people in support groups develop confidence to be more proactive about their needs," says Petrow-Cohen.
- Educating yourself. Learn what psoriatic arthritis is, and what it is not. It may help to know, for instance, that psoriatic arthritis is not contagious."You need to become informed about your disease," says Gottlieb.
Preventing and Treating Psoriatic Arthritis Pains
Though others can't see it, pain is impossible to ignore when you're experiencing it. Pain can interfere with everything, from relationships to sleep, and the ability to function at work. Any effort you put into reducing your pain could pay off in many areas of your life. You may be able to shrink the effects of your psoriatic arthritis pain by:
- Getting treatment. New medications called TNF blockers can relieve pain from psoriatic arthritis while also preventing further damage to your joints. "With the right treatment, pain should be dramatically improved," says Gottlieb.
- Avoiding triggers. You might get temporary relief from smoking or drinking, but not without risking your overall health. Plus, alcohol can have very serious side effects when combined with certain psoriasis medications. And heavy drinking can make some psoriatic arthritis medications less effective.
- Finding an exercise plan that works for you. A 5-kilometer walk on Thanksgiving Day made Karen feel surprisingly better. Yoga, on the other hand, makes her feel worse.
Psoriatic arthritis varies from person to person. What works for one may not work for another. But generally, moderate exercise can provide a number of physical and mental benefits for people with psoriatic arthritis. Consult with a physical therapist who can help you learn which activities meet your needs and abilities.
- Eating a healthy diet. A diet that is high in fruits and vegetables, and low on fats and sugars, is not only good for your health. It's good for your weight. Losing excess pounds can also relieve pressure on your joints.
Using Time to Your Advantage
Staying on top of psoriatic arthritis can take a lot of time. Your daily routine may involve taking several medications, using special shampoo and skin lotion, plus making time to exercise and prepare healthy meals. If fatigue is one of your symptoms, you have to fit all this in with a low reserve of energy. To make the best of every moment:
- Communicate your needs. If you have trouble keeping up with the demands of treatment, talk with your physician. "It's important to have a treatment regimen that you're comfortable with and can do," says Ritchlin.
- Control what you can. You may not be able to make psoriatic arthritis disappear. But you can make decisions about how it will affect your life. Plan ahead to reduce stress and congratulate yourself every time you do something good for your well-being.
Alice B. Gottlieb and Christopher T. Ritchlin both consult for pharmaceutical companies that make TNF blockers.