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Healthy Hand and Foot Care Tips for Psoriatic Arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) can be hard on your hands and feet. Most people with PsA suffer with pain and swelling in their fingers or toes, and inflammation can make writing, walking -- pretty much everything -- harder. Not to mention the embarrassing, hard-to-hide psoriasis on your skin and nails. But you don’t have to let unpleasant psoriatic symptoms take control of your life. Check out these five at-home tips to treat common hand and foot woes, so that you can start feeling better and more confident today.

#1. Stay on top of your nail care and be aware of any noticeable changes. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF), 86% of people with psoriatic arthritis also have nail psoriasis, which can lead to pitting, discoloration, thickening, ridging and separation from the nail bed. For those with mild symptoms, topical treatments or steroid injections may be an effective route. It’s also important to sleuth out where your nail changes are coming from. While nail problems may be due to the psoriasis itself, one-third of nail issues actually stem from a fungal infection, in which case completely different treatment is needed. Talk to your doctor to see what treatment is appropriate for you.

 #2. Keep your nails safe. Injuries to the nails can trigger nail psoriasis, or set off a flare-up. Also, certain medications for psoriatic arthritis can make your nails more vulnerable to infection. To protect them, wear gloves when working with your hands, keep your nails clean and short (but not too short) and beware of acrylic nails, which can weaken nail beds. Practice safe cuticle care by using gentle techniques such as buffing. You can still add a nice shine with some clear polish, but you may want to avoid loud colors. Discoloration of the nails can be an indicator of nail damage, and bright, painted nails can hide the evidence. If you see redness and chipping, steer clear of polish altogether until you’ve talked to your doctor about the next step.

 #3. Opt for comfort instead of style when it comes to footwear. Breathable footwear can serve as a pain reliever for cramped toes and heels. Think of open-toes or shoes with wiggle room as your feet’s best friends. Ladies, you may want to ditch the high heels, which can further irritate already swollen toes. Choose shoes that have arch support and some sort of cushion, especially if you have pain in the soles of your feet, a common problem in PsA. Also, pick the right material to prevent fungal infections. Leather and canvas are good options for shoes, while synthetic materials for socks can help wick away moisture. 

 #4. Try some cold therapy. If your hands and/or feet are aching, apply some cold packs to lessen throbbing. For a DIY cold pack, grab a bag of veggies or put some ice in a Ziploc bag. Use a barrier (like a small towel) when applying to avoid irritating swollen fingers and potentially inflicting an ice burn. For best results, trade off every ten minutes -- apply the ice pack for ten minutes, then take a break for another ten.

 #5. Don’t soak up too many suds. A long bubble bath may seem like the soothing answer to your psoriasis woes, but soaking in the tub for too long can actually suck the moisture out of your skin and worsen your symptoms. And it’s not just at home that you have to be careful: During manicures and pedicures, spend less time soaking, or ask your nail technician to skip that part altogether. Don’t want to miss out on the relaxation that usually comes with the soaking? Tell your manicurist to spend more time moisturizing or massaging your hands and feet instead.

While all these tips are helpful, the absolute best way to soothe your achy hands and feet is ensure that you’re doing all you can to manage your PsA. If you’re bothered by joint or nail problems, make sure your doctor knows, so he or she can prescribe the right medication and treatment plans. ...

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