Skin Problems

There are a number of joint diseases that cause skin rashes. Treatment depends on accurately diagnosing the underlying condition causing arthritis and skin problems. Here’s everything you need to know about joint-related skin issues, and how to treat them.

9 minute read

Last Updated July 1, 2020

Skin Problems - Joint - 1MD

It may seem unrelated, but the cause of a skin condition could be a joint-related problem. There are a number of joint diseases that cause skin problems and rashes.

Rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, psoriatic arthritis, and gonococcal arthritis all have symptoms that affect your skin. Skin problems can also occur as a result of getting older or as hormone balances shift. Understanding the cause of your skin problem is the only way to get effective treatment.

You can also experience common skin problems as a result of aging. Age-related skin changes can result in wrinkles or melanoma, and those who also have diabetes, kidney disease, or liver disease may be more prone to dry skin problems.

Skin cancer is also more of a risk for aging skin, so precautions are needed when outside in the sun. Hormonal changes can also impact skin health, especially for women going through menopause. Acne, wrinkles, and dry skin are common with menopause.

Outside of these common skin problems, others can occur as the result of an underlying condition.

Rheumatoid Arthritis and Your Skin

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune condition that attacks your joints. Joint stiffness and swelling, as well as nodules under the skin, are common symptoms. Skin rashes are also common with RA.

There are different types of rashes that you can develop with RA.

Rheumatoid Vasculitis

Rheumatoid vasculitis is a condition that can cause a rash that is red and very painful in your legs if the larger arteries and veins come under inflammatory attack. This rash is not considered severe so long as it only affects the skin. There are cases where it can reach your organs and nerves, and this is when it becomes a more serious problem.

Antibiotic creams are prescribed to treat this type of rash, and for more severe cases, you may need stronger immune system treatment to get the underlying diseases under control.

Livedo Reticularis

This rash appears as a discoloration on your skin. It can be purple in color, and would appear like a lacy pattern, and is most often seen on the legs.

The mottle appearance and discoloration is the result of swelling of the blood vessels due to obstructed blood capillaries. Symptoms can usually improve with age, but the condition causing the rash needs to be addressed directly.

Lupus and Your Skin

Lupus is an autoimmune condition that affects a number of systems in your body, including your joints, and your skin. The skin is one of the most commonly affected areas, and there are three different rashes that occur that are distinct to lupus.

1. Disc-Shaped Rash (Associated With Chronic Cutaneous Lupus)

This appears on the face as a coin-shaped red rash on the cheeks, nose, and ears. This rash is not itchy, but it can leave your skin discolored once it fades. If they appear on the scalp, they can cause hair loss, and if scars are formed after the rash fades, the hair loss may be permanent.

Disc-shaped lesions that exist for a long time can cause cancer, so you need to speak with your doctor if you notice any changes in their appearance. This rash is photosensitive, so avoid the sunlight, and wear strong sunscreen when outdoors to prevent it from getting worse.

2. Butterfly Rash (Associated With Acute Cutaneous Lupus)

Another skin problem associated with lupus is the butterfly rash. It earns its name from the distinct butterfly shape it has across your nose, fanning out onto both cheeks.

The lesions only appear when your lupus is active, and it often resembles sunburn in coloration. The rash can also appear on your arms and legs, and it is also very photosensitive.

3. Ring-Shaped Rash (Associated With Subacute Cutaneous Lupus)

This rash appears on parts of the body exposed to the sun and looks like scaly red patches or ring shapes. These patches do not itch or scar, but they can become discolored. Like other rashes associated with lupus, this is also photosensitive, so preventative measures are essential for preventing worse symptoms.

Psoriatic Arthritis and Your Skin

Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is an autoimmune condition that causes joint pain and stiffness. Many people with PsA suffer from skin conditions long before they develop joint pain.

The rash associated with PsA is thick and red and covered with white flaky patches. These patches are called plaques, and they can itch or burn, but you must never scratch them. Scratching them can open your skin to infection.

This rash can come and go, with factors like stress or injury making it worse. The PsA rash will typically appear on your elbows, knees, scalp, lower back, genitals, and around the belly button.

Gonococcal Arthritis and Your Skin

This is a rare complication of the sexually transmitted disease gonorrhea. The disease causes inflammation and pain to tissues and joints, but can also cause a rash.

The bacteria from the disease typically attack larger joints such as knees and ankles, and you will notice a rash as well as swollen and inflamed joints. The rash can appear suddenly and is associated with excruciating pain, and if left untreated can lead to chronic joint pain and problems.

Often the rash is the first indication that the gonorrhea bacteria have reached your joints.

Treatment for Skin Problems

The cause of your skin condition or rash will determine the treatment needed. Often inflammation is involved in causing the rash or making it worse, so anti-inflammatory medications can help reduce the severity.

With gonococcal arthritis, the cause is bacterial, so antibiotics that treat gonorrhea will eventually clear the rash too. With arthritis-related rashes, the best treatments are steroids and antihistamines, and your doctor will advise which is best for your particular condition.

Natural Treatment for Skin Problems

There are natural ways to treat the inflammation that causes skin problems. Even in cases where skin problems are caused by an autoimmune condition, natural treatment can help.

Rheumatoid arthritis and lupus are common causes of skin rashes as a result of the chronic inflammation from these conditions.

Boswellia serrata is a natural tree resin with anti-inflammatory properties. Whether applied topically or consumed as a supplement, Boswellia serrata reduces inflammation of the skin, which reduces pain and redness common to skin conditions.

Curcumin is the key compound in the spice turmeric, and it also helps with inflammatory conditions. Curcumin reduces the redness and swelling common to skin conditions such as arthritis, psoriasis, and the rashes that occur with lupus.

Astaxanthin, a compound found in algae, shrimp, and salmon, is a powerful antioxidant. Chronic inflammation caused by skin conditions triggers oxidative damage. Astaxanthin reduces inflammation and oxidative damage by blocking chemicals in your body. As a result, it is an effective treatment for inflammatory skin conditions.

What Is the Long-Term Outlook?

With the exception of gonococcal arthritis, many of these joint diseases are autoimmune conditions, which means there is no cure.

Treatment depends on accurately diagnosing the underlying condition causing arthritis and skin problems. With prescribed medications, you can control inflammation, which will reduce joint pains and the skin rashes associated with them.

It is important to discuss any skin problems with your doctor so that the cause can be identified, and treatment can begin immediately.

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