Caring for Your Skin and Joints While Living With Psoriatic Disease

Psoriatic Disease

 Iri-s/Getty Images

It is important to take care of your skin and joints with psoriatic disease, which is an autoimmune disease that includes two inflammatory diseases: psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis (PsA).

Up to 30% of people who have psoriatic arthritis also have psoriasis. That means that in addition to inflamed and painful joints, they also have to deal with thick, inflamed, silvery, scaly patches, called plaques, that can appear anywhere on the skin throughout the body.

Here’s how to care for your skin and joints while living with psoriatic disease.

Skin

Your doctor will recommend treatments to alleviate skin symptoms, but you will also need to adopt good skin care habits. Good habits will help to relieve discomfort, itching, and burning.

Moisturize

Psoriasis plaques tend to be dry, itchy, and flaky. Moisturizing your skin provides a protective seal over the skin to promote hydration, reduce itch, and improve your skin’s appearance. Moisturized skin is stronger and this will keep cracking and other skin damage at bay.

Look for products containing oat extract or aloe to calm down inflammation and protect your skin. Try lotions instead of creams because they are thinner than creams and you can cover large areas without rubbing too hard. Apply moisturizer after cleansing. If you are finding your skin itches, store moisturizers in the refrigerator to help cool down the itch with use.

Light Therapy

Ultraviolet B light (UVB) has been found to help manage psoriasis. It can help to slow down the growth of the cells responsible for the accelerated skin growth seen in PsA. Your doctor may prescribe UVB light therapy—called phototherapy—to manage skin symptoms of psoriatic disease. Light therapy sessions range from a few seconds to up to five minutes.

You can get treatments at your doctor’s office or your doctor can also prescribe a light therapy machine for use at home. Whatever option you and your doctor decide, it is important to stick to treatments to get the most benefit.

Sunlight and Vitamin D

Natural sunlight is an alternative to light therapy. Try to get at least 15 to 30 minutes of sunlight daily. 

Sunlight can also help the body to create vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency is common in people with psoriasis. One 2017 review in Reviews in Endocrine and Metabolic Disorders confirms a link between psoriatic disease and low vitamin D. However, it is not clear whether increasing vitamin D can help improve psoriasis symptoms or whether any improvement is due to sunlight exposure. The authors of the report further note using topical creams containing vitamin D might be helpful in treating psoriasis plaques.

Take a Soak

Soaking in a warm bath (not hot) for at around 15 minutes can help loosen scales and reduce inflammation and itching. You can add bath oil, oatmeal, or a coal tar bath gel to help soothe skin. 

Cleanse Gently

When your skin is more sensitive, you have got to watch how you are your cleaning skin. You should always use warm water because hot water can strip your skin of moisture and oil. Make sure baths and showers are short because it is possible prolonged exposure to minerals in hard water can dry your skin and worsen psoriasis.

You should also use non-soap cleansers. These are products containing synthetic surfactants that are pH balanced and might be better for people with psoriasis. The soaps are milder than regular soap and won’t dry or irritate the skin. It is also a good idea to use fragrance-free products to avoid negative reactions, including skin allergies and irritation.

Avoid Injury

With psoriasis, a small cut or scape can set off a flare, so it’s a good idea to avoid even the simplest nicks and cuts. Even areas that have never been affected by psoriasis can be if you get injured.

You should also be careful with your nails. Use caution when clipping or filing nails. Never pull a hanging cuticle. Instead, ask a friend or loved one for help using a cuticle trimmer. Better yet, get a professional manicure or pedicure.

When making your nail appointment, let them know you have psoriasis and ask if any of their nail technicians have previously worked with people who have psoriasis. If the nail technician isn’t familiar with psoriasis, let that person know they need to be careful, especially with trimming nails and cuticles.

Joints

Psoriatic arthritis involves an aggressive treatment plan, which includes medications and lifestyle changes. If treatments aren’t helping and you are experiencing a lot of pain, you should talk to your doctor about other options. Even if your treatments seem to be working, there are still things you should do to keep PsA symptoms from coming back or getting worse.

Keep Moving

Staying active is important for people with PsA. In fact, this is true for any type of arthritis—whether it is inflammatory or not. Low impact exercises—such as walking, jogging, and swimming—are good options for people with PsA to help strengthen the muscles around your joints.

Routine excise can also help:

  • Ease joint pain and stiffness
  • Improve range of motion and gait (how you walk)
  • Get you stronger and more flexible
  • Get you to a healthy weight, which takes pressure off the joints
  • Improve your heart health and mood
  • Give you more energy

You can work out on your own or with the help of a physical therapist. Make sure you warm up before exercising so your muscles can slowly ease into more activity.

Protect Your Joints

Having PsA doesn’t mean you have to give up the things you love doing. However, you will need to find ways to do favorite activities without putting pressure on your joints.

It is important to work on the way you walk, sit, stand, carry, and hold things. Even something as easy as practicing good posture makes a difference in helping you feel better.

Other ways to protect your joints include:

  • Pacing yourself: Make sure you take breaks throughout your day. As you perform tasks, alternate between heavy, hard tasks and light, easy ones.
  • Reduce joint stress: You should aim to put as little stress as possible on your joints. Try to use larger, stronger joints, instead of smaller ones. For example, a shoulder bag puts stress on your shoulder joint which is stronger than your hand and finger joints when it comes to carrying a handheld purse.
  • Try assistive devices: Canes, grab bars, and sit/stand stools, are all helpful devices to make your day easier. Ask an occupational therapist about which tools might be helpful to you.

Manage Weight

Dropping some weight is helpful to your knees and hips. Any basic diet that helps you shed pounds can reduce PsA joint pain and stiffness. To lose weight, try limiting sugars, fats, and carbohydrates. Eat more fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and low-dairy products.

Weight loss will not only help your joints feel better, but will also reduce your risk for other diseases, including high blood pressure and diabetes. 

A Word From Verywell

It is normal to feel frustrated by your symptoms and the effects of the disease. You may worry treatment costs, caring for loved ones, finances, and the future. And if skin plaques are in areas that cannot be hidden with clothing, you might be embarrassed by psoriasis. 

Just as important as it is to care for your skin and joints with psoriatic disease, it is equally important to take care of your emotional health. You can deal with your emotions positively in a variety of ways, including talking to others who are also living with psoriatic disease, a mental health professional, or a loved one. You can also find ways to cope with the emotional aspects of the disease, such as with relaxation breathing, meditation, or yoga.

And remember, while you don’t have complete control over the physical aspects of the disease, you can still decide how you handle it.

Was this page helpful?

Article Sources

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Psoriasis Foundation. About Psoriatic Arthritis. Updated August 15, 2019.

  2. National Psoriasis Foundation. Phototherapy.

  3. Barrea, L., Savanelli, M.C., Di Somma, C. et al. Vitamin D and its role in psoriasis: An overview of the dermatologist and nutritionist. Rev Endocr Metab Disord (2017) 18: 195. doi: 10.1007/s11154-017-9411-6

Additional Reading