When you injure a joint, you expect the classic consequences — pain, redness, and inflammation. What you might not know is that those symptoms also accompany other conditions, including arthritis.
Although there are more than 100 types of arthritis, they all have one thing in common — they affect your joints. Depending on which type you have and how severe it is, you may experience a range of symptoms, including stillness, pain, limited movement, and yes, red, swollen skin in the area.
Dr. Farah Khan at Millennium Park Medical Associates in Greenwood Village, Colorado, treats the chronic symptoms of all arthritis types and eases the pain, inflammation, and swelling that come with acute flare-ups. Here’s a look at why arthritis causes skin changes and what we can do about it.
Which types of arthritis affect the skin?
Although all types of arthritis have the potential to make your skin red and swollen and even warm to the touch, some are more prone to this than others, and some only display these symptoms during a flare-up. Rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis frequently affect the skin.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
A systemic autoimmune disease, RA attacks the healthy tissues in your body, mistaking them for diseased tissues. One of the classic signs of RA — red, swollen skin — goes beyond the garden-variety redness caused by other types of arthritis. For example, rheumatoid vasculitis, a web-like network of inflamed blood vessels, may appear on your fingers and toes if you’ve been living with RA for more than 10 years.
Those who suffer from rheumatoid vasculitis may also develop a rash called livedo reticularis, which discolors the skin with a purplish hue. Some RA sufferers also experience occasional hives, which are itchy, red bumps.
Dr. Khan can help you understand what’s causing your arthritis-related skin issues and recommend the proper treatment, including simple over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that ease the swelling. If those don’t relieve your symptoms, she may prescribe corticosteroids, antihistamines, or antibiotics.
Another autoimmune disorder, psoriatic arthritis, also attacks healthy tissue just as RA does, but in this case, the red skin and swelling often precede the joint disease. A related health condition called psoriasis, which occurs when your skin cells multiply too rapidly and collect in scaly patches, typically on your knees and elbows, leaves you with red, swollen skin.
The inflammation caused by this immune system dysfunction can impact your joints as well, which is why one out of every three people with psoriasis may develop psoriatic arthritis. In many cases, psoriatic arthritis begins before psoriasis, but it goes undetected until years later.
To treat your psoriatic arthritis, with or without psoriasis, Dr. Khan may use a variety of methods to combat your pain, improve your range of motion, and calm your skin condition. From topical creams and systemic drugs to phototherapy and lifestyle changes, she can help you find the right combination to help you live comfortably with your condition.
If you have red, swollen, stiff, achy joints, it may be arthritis or a number of other conditions, and if you’re ignoring these symptoms, you may be risking severe joint damage and potential disability. Don’t let that happen when treatments are available. Schedule an appointment today. Call us at 720-928-5446 or book a consultation online.