Psoriatic Arthritis Treatment

Mike Olmos by Mike Olmos | Licensed since 2010
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This article was updated on: 09/15/2018

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Psoriasis is a skin condition that produces red patchy skin with silver-colored scales. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), about 10 to 20 percent of people with psoriasis is at risk for developing psoriatic arthritis. Psoriatic arthritis can affect any of the body’s joints, causing pain, tingling, and swelling.

If you have psoriasis and develop joint pain, you should see your doctor. A physician can diagnose the condition based on your medical and family history, a physical exam, and X-rays of affected joints. The doctor may also order lab tests to rule out other forms of arthritis with similar symptoms.

There is no cure for the disease, so psoriatic arthritis treatment focuses on managing your symptoms and providing arthritis pain relief. It’s important to receive care as soon as you can to prevent permanent damage to your joints. Learn more about different psoriatic arthritis treatments in this article.

What medications are available for psoriatic arthritis treatment?

There are several options to help minimize your symptoms and provide arthritis pain relief. Usually, the treatment method will depend on the severity of the disease or the number of affected joints. Surgery is an option in some cases to repair or replace badly damaged joints.

These are some commonly used medications for psoriatic arthritis treatment and arthritis pain relief:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are often prescribed if the disease is mild and only a couple of joints are affected. Over-the-counter options, including ibuprofen and naproxen sodium (Aleve), may be enough to reduce inflammation and offer arthritis pain relief; your doctor may also recommend stronger medications available by prescription only. Remember to check with your doctor about side effects and possible drug interactions before taking NSAIDs.
  • Corticosteroids, which can be taken by mouth or injected directly into affected joints, can also provide arthritis pain relief and reduce joint inflammation.
  • Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) slow the progression of the disease and can prevent the joint and tissue damage associated with psoriatic arthritis. These prescription medications include Trexall, Arava, and Azulfidine.
  • Immunosuppressants are sometimes prescribed to slow down your immune system, which is irritated during a psoriatic arthritis flare-up. You are more prone to infections, however, when you take these medications.
  • TNF-alpha inhibitors (biologics), which include the brand-name medications Enbrel, Remicade, Humira, and Simponi, suppress the production of TNF-alpha, an inflammatory substance in your body that causes many of the painful symptoms of psoriatic arthritis. These powerful medications carry the potential for significant side effects, including nausea and stomach upset, diarrhea, and even hair loss. They also increase your susceptibility to infections.

What are other psoriatic arthritis treatment options?

In addition to taking medications, there are other ways you can help manage psoriatic arthritis, such as the following:

  • Physical therapy: You may be able to improve joint movement with the help of a physical therapist.  
  • Exercise: Physical activity is important for your overall health and to help maintain a healthy weight and lower your risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. It’s also important to maintain joint movement. Make sure to ask your doctor and physical therapist about a recommended exercise plan.
  • Mind and body therapies: According to the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF), stress has been proven to trigger psoriasis in some people, and techniques such as aromatherapy, mindfulness, meditation, and spa therapy may help manage stress.
  • Alternative therapies: According to the NPF, patients report that alternative therapies, like acupressure, acupuncture, and massage may help relieve their psoriatic arthritis symptoms and provide arthritis pain relief. However, please note that the benefits of alternative medicine are still being studied.
  • Herbs and natural remedies: Be sure to talk with your doctor before taking any herbal or natural remedy because some may cause dangerous interactions with your medications or are not recommended because of pre-existing conditions. While research into the benefits of herbal or natural remedies has been inconclusive, some patients with psoriatic arthritis find them helpful. Herbs or natural remedies that may help with psoriatic arthritis include turmeric, an herb studied for its anti-inflammatory properties, and topical application of aloe vera, tea tree oil, or oatmeal paste.

What’s a good psoriatic arthritis diet?

Currently, scientists say there’s little evidence that eating a particular psoriatic arthritis diet will have a major impact on the disease. However, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation, many psoriasis patients say that they’ve found relief by changing their diet. It’s a good idea to speak with your doctor before making changes to your diet. Overall, a psoriatic arthritis diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and cold-water fish may be helpful for some patients.

Here are some approaches you can take for a psoriatic arthritis diet:

  • Weight loss: According to the NPF, researchers have found that a higher body mass index (BMI) is associated with an elevated risk for psoriatic arthritis and an increased severity of symptoms.
  • Heart-healthy: Psoriasis is an inflammatory disease like heart disease, and a heart-healthy diet including fish twice a week and lean meats may reduce inflammation and improve symptoms.
  • Anti-inflammatory: It may be a good idea to avoid foods that have been shown to increase or cause inflammation, like fatty red meats, processed foods, and refined sugars.
  • Gluten-free: Some people also find reducing the amount of gluten in their diet may help with psoriatic arthritis pain relief, but it generally will only help if gluten is a problem for you to begin with.
  • Vitamins and supplements: Studies have not shown a direct link, but according to the NPF, many people with psoriatic arthritis have reported that vitamins and supplements may help ease joint pain and skin problems. These include omega 3-fatty acids and vitamin D. Please make sure to tell your doctor if you take any over-the-counter supplements because they may interfere with your medications. Also, you shouldn’t use supplements to replace your prescribed medications.

Does Medicare cover psoriatic arthritis treatment?

If you have Original Medicare (Part A and Part B), you are covered for psoriatic arthritis treatment you receive as an inpatient in the hospital under Part A, while Part B covers your doctor visits, tests, and other health care you receive on an outpatient basis. Part B may also cover physical therapy up to a specific limit, unless you qualify for an exception to the therapy cap limit. Your costs are subject to Medicare’s allowable charges, and you are responsible for any deductibles, coinsurance, and/or copayments required for your care. Please note that Medicare doesn’t generally cover alternative medicine therapies or vitamins and supplements under either Part A or Part B.

Original Medicare may cover certain outpatient psoriatic arthritis medications administered by your doctor (such as injections and infusions), as well as medications that are part of an inpatient hospital or skilled nursing facility stay. However, it does not cover prescriptions drugs you take at home. To get help with your medications, you may want to enroll in a stand-alone Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan to go alongside your Original Medicare, or select a Medicare Advantage plan with prescription drug coverage. Be sure to check your plan’s formulary, or list of approved medications, for any prescription drugs you take on a regular basis. Keep in mind that formularies may change at any time; your Medicare plan will notify you if needed. You may be responsible for deductibles, coinsurance, and/or copayment amounts, depending on the plan you select.

Medicare Advantage plans are an alternative way to get your Original Medicare benefits and must include at least the same level of coverage as Part A and Part B (except for hospice, which is still covered through Original Medicare Part A). Many plans may also cover benefits beyond Original Medicare, such as prescription drugs or wellness programs to help you stay active and manage your psoriatic arthritis.

Do you need help finding the right Medicare plan option for your psoriatic arthritis treatment? I’m available to help you understand your options. To get information via email or to schedule a phone call at your convenience, click the appropriate link below. You can see a list of plans in your area by clicking the Compare Plans or Find Plans buttons on this page. Find out more about me by clicking on the “View profile” link below.

For more information, please see:

“Treating Psoriatic Arthritis,” National Psoriasis Foundation, accessed July 18th, 2016, https://www.psoriasis.org/psoriatic-arthritis/treatments

“Psoriatic Arthritis Overview,” National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, last modified October 2014, http://www.niams.nih.gov/health_info/psoriatic_arthritis/

“Psoriatic Arthritis,” U.S. National Library of Medicine, last modified July 13, 2016, https://medlineplus.gov/psoriaticarthritis.html

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