The Symptoms of Psoriatic Arthritis in the Hands and Feet
Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is a chronic and progressive form of inflammatory arthritis, causing joint pain, stiffness and swelling. These symptoms can come and go - depending on how severe the condition is in a particular case. Once you have psoriasis, you are at risk of psoriatic arthritis with an estimated 30% of those with psoriasis developing the condition. The good news is that an early diagnosis helps reduce the risk of any permanent bone or joint damage.
What are the symptoms of psoriatic arthritis in the hands and feet?
- Stiff and swollen fingers which make it hard to perform basic everyday tasks.
- The nails can become discolored (yellowing or browning); they can become thick and pitted; the nail can separate from the nail bed; there can be a chalky buildup under the nail along with nail tenderness or pain. Nail psoriasis can resemble a fungal infection or some can suffer from both conditions at the same time. A nail skin cell sample can be tested for a fungal infection.
- The feet can feel swollen, sore and stiff, making it painful to work or stand for long periods. Other symptoms in the feet can include ankle swelling, toe swelling (especially of the big toe), pain in the bottom of the heel or the Achilles tendon. It is important to take notice of any foot symptoms as if left untreated, foot deformity is possible. A physical or occupational therapist can help with exercises and stretches to avoid stress on the feet, to protect the joints and to keep them flexible.
To sum up, the most common symptoms include: joints that are painful, swollen and warm; stiffness, especially in the morning; back pain; pain or tenderness; reduced range of motion; swollen fingers and toes; eye problems including redness, irritation and sensitivity to light; nail changes; and/or fatigue.
Finding relief for psoriatic arthritisFor hands and fingers:
- Massaging the affected areas
- Applying a hot or cold compress to reduce swelling
- Wearing hand splints to help stabilize and protect your wrist and fingers
- Taking regular breaks when typing or writing
- Performing hand and wrist exercises to help stretch and strengthen the muscles
- Be proactive in caring for your nails as nail injury can worsen nail psoriasis and trigger flair-ups
- Keep your nails short
- Moisturize nails after soaking
- Wear gloves when doing dishes, housework, or gardening
- Use clear polish (this is because colored polish can mask signs of disease)
- Avoid soaking hands for too long or pushing the cuticles too aggressively (this is because it can lead to tiny tears)
- Wear shoe inserts to help relieve pressure on the feet
- The right footwear is important which should be roomy to accommodate any potential swelling; open-toed can feel more loose; select breathable materials for footwear (leather or canvas); and ensure proper arch support.