Psoriasis occurs in 3.2 percent of the US population, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Of patients with psoriasis, 10 to 30 percent also have psoriatic arthritis, a debilitating disease that involves the skin, joints, and heart, and can even cause foot arthritis. It can be an extremely challenging condition to live with, but having the support of a loved one can make it easier.
As with psoriasis, there's no cure for psoriatic arthritis. However, it's possible to get the condition under control and even achieve remission with disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and biologic drugs. Over the last few years, an increase in new therapies and new research into treatment of psoriatic arthritis have improved the prospects of many people with psoriatic arthritis.
Fatigue is a common symptom of psoriatic arthritis. This can lead to your spouse or partner needing to change plans in order to rest. It’s something you must get used to – and never take a “no” personally. “A spouse or partner of someone dealing with psoriatic arthritis must be able to provide both social and emotional support,” says Dr. Sarmad Almansour, Internal Medicine and Rheumatology specialist at Detroit Medical Center's Sinai-Grace Hospital.
Just because there's still no cure for psoriatic arthritis, doesn't mean there's no treatment for it. Many treatment options exist to manage pain and stop inflammation, which helps prevent further joint damage. It OK to have low-energy days, but you're in control of how you relate to the disease. You might find it helpful to talk with other people with psoriatic arthritis on online forums, such as the National Psoriasis Foundation's message boards.
A chronic disease like psoriatic arthritis, which comes with many side effects, can be extremely stressful for the person with the condition and their partner. To manage this stress, Dr. Almansour says it's vital to stay on top of the disease and be transparent in their communication. “Support and communication can help to anticipate assistance in daily activities as well as to avert more serious issues like early signs of depression,” he explains.
According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, people with psoriatic arthritis are more likely to have depression and anxiety than people with psoriasis alone. A 2014 studyrevealed that 36.6 percent of participants with psoriatic arthritis had anxiety, while 22.2 percent had depression. However, another study published in the journal Rehabilitation Psychology in 2014 found that support from a spouse or partner helps people with psoriatic arthritis avert early feelings of depression. Provide a sympathetic ear and encourage your partner to share their feelings.
“Someone with psoriatic arthritis will have good and bad days, high and low moods, and bouts of intense fatigue in addition to chronic pain,” says Dr. Almansour. This makes even simple everyday chores, like getting dressed or cooking, very difficult. A partner should always be prepared to step in and help if needed. If you need extra help with the chores or your children, consider hiring a cleaner or a babysitter to help ease the pressure.
Mornings can be particularly tough for people living with psoriatic arthritis as joint pain and stiffness may be more severe at that time of day. “The only thing that helps improve those symptoms is devoting time to loosening up and stretching the joints,” says Chirag Shah, M.D., board-certified emergency medicine. By giving your spouse extra help with children, housework, meal preparation, and other organizational tasks in the morning, they can spend the necessary time on relieving discomfort.
Most people with psoriatic arthritis don’t want to draw attention to their condition when they’re out in public or socializing with friends. You can help your partner avoid embarrassment and unwanted attention by being aware of when they’re overwhelmed or in pain, acknowledging this without highlighting it to others, and having an excuse ready – besides psoriatic arthritis – if you need to make a quick exit.
Many small, simple items can make life with psoriatic arthritis a little easier, such as an electronic can opener, a lightweight mug with a large handle, a one-touch binder, a hands-free computer mouse, and lightweight cleaning tools. Be supportive by not questioning your partner's desire to purchase these things. And if you really want to show you care – and are thinking about your partner and the challenges they face every day – buy them for them.