Psoriatic arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes joint inflammation. Psoriatic arthritis occurs with a skin condition called psoriasis, which causes itchy red patches on the skin. About one-third of people with psoriasis will develop psoriatic arthritis.
Psoriatic arthritis occurs due to a faulty immune response, in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the joints and skin. The exact cause of psoriatic arthritis is unknown, but scientists believe a combination of genetic and environmental factors play a role.
People with psoriatic arthritis are at increased risk during flu season. People with this condition often take certain medications that affect the immune system, which can make them more susceptible to flu. The flu can also cause flare-ups of psoriatic arthritis symptoms.
Learn more about psoriatic arthritis and the flu.
How genes affect psoriatic arthritis and psoriasis
Medications and immune system effects
People with psoriatic arthritis often take a variety of medications to manage their condition, some of which make them more susceptible to infections, including the flu.
Biologics are a type of medication that is sometimes used to treat psoriatic arthritis. These drugs reduce inflammation in the body to treat psoriatic arthritis symptoms, but they also suppress the immune system.
Using biologics can weaken the body’s immune system, making it harder for the body to fight off bacteria. During flu season, people taking biologics are at increased risk of contracting the flu virus. If someone with psoriatic arthritis gets the flu, they may have to stop taking their medication until they get better.
Having the flu or other illnesses can also trigger flare-ups of psoriatic arthritis symptoms.
Symptoms of Psoriatic Arthritis
People with psoriatic arthritis are also at greater risk of flu-related complications if they contract the virus because their immune systems are suppressed.
Complications from the flu that people with psoriatic arthritis may be more likely to develop include:
- ear infection
- sinus infection
People with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis are also at higher risk for other respiratory infections and flu-related pneumonia.
Psoriatic Arthritis and COVID-19: Risks, Complications, Considerations
How to avoid the flu
There are a number of ways that people with psoriatic arthritis can protect themselves and reduce their chances of getting sick during flu season.
wash hands frequently
Frequent, proper hand washing can remove germs and help prevent their spread. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends washing hands with soap and water.
The steps for proper hand washing are:
- Wet your hands with clean running water from the faucet.
- Apply soap.
- Rub your hands together to lather the soap.
- Make sure to apply the soap to the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
- Continue to lather for at least 20 seconds.
- Rinse hands with water.
- Dry hands thoroughly.
If you cannot wash your hands with soap and water, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
How to wash your hands: CDC guidelines
Get the flu shot
Getting a flu shot every year will help protect you from the flu and reduce your risk of flu-related complications when you get sick.
People with psoriatic arthritis should follow CDC guidelines and get a flu shot by early October each year. People who live in the same house as someone with psoriatic arthritis or other high-risk conditions should also be vaccinated.
People taking biologics and immunosuppressive drugs can still get the flu shot, but they are advised not to get the live flu vaccine in the form of a nasal spray (which should not be given to immunocompromised people).
The flu shot will not give you the flu. The study also found that the flu vaccine does not appear to trigger flares directly. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about having a flare-up after a vaccination.
How Psoriatic Arthritis Affects Your Breathing
Other Flu Prevention Tips
Other steps you can take to avoid getting the flu include:
- Avoid close contact with others (especially people who are sick).
- Do not touch your nose, eyes and mouth.
- Disinfect surfaces in your home, workplace, and school.
- Exercise regularly.
- enough sleep.
- Manage your stress levels.
- Stay hydrated.
- eat a nutritious diet
if you have the flu
People with psoriatic arthritis who have the flu should talk with their doctor about the best way to manage their medications while sick.
In most cases, people with psoriatic arthritis who have the flu need to stop taking biologics while they recover from the flu.
Doctors can prescribe antiviral drugs to treat flu illness. When people who are immunocompromised, including those with psoriatic arthritis, get the flu, it is important to start these medications as soon as possible.
When to see a healthcare provider
People with psoriatic arthritis should contact their doctor if they have flu-like symptoms. Their doctor will tell them if they should stop taking their regular medication, and they may prescribe antiviral medication to help them get better.
Complications of Psoriatic Arthritis
People with psoriatic arthritis have an increased risk of getting the flu. They are also at risk for flu-related complications, including pneumonia. Taking steps such as regular hand washing and flu vaccinations will reduce the risk of contracting and serious flu illness.
If you have psoriatic arthritis, you are at higher risk for flu and flu-related complications. There are steps you can take to protect yourself, such as getting a flu shot.
If you do have flu-like symptoms, be sure to tell your doctor right away. If you do have the flu, you may need to stop taking your medication until you get better. Your doctor may prescribe some antiviral medicines to help you get better as quickly as possible.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is psoriatic arthritis an autoimmune disease?
Yes. Psoriatic arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disease thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Can Psoriatic Arthritis Cause Fever?
Yes. Symptoms of psoriatic arthritis vary, but some people may experience a low-grade fever — especially during flare-ups. However, a fever can also be a sign of an infection or illness, such as the flu.
Tell your doctor if you have a fever and other symptoms (such as a cough or sore throat), or if someone close to you is sick.
Does Psoriatic Arthritis Make You Feel Like You Have the Flu?
it can. Psoriatic arthritis can cause flu-like systemic symptoms such as fever, body aches, headaches, and fatigue. Psoriatic arthritis does not cause other flu symptoms, such as sore throat, runny nose, cough, and congestion.
How common is psoriatic arthritis in people with psoriasis?