Psoriatic arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis is a form of arthritis that affects some people who have psoriasis — a condition that features red patches of skin topped with silvery scales. Most people develop psoriasis first and are later diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis, but the joint problems can sometimes begin before skin lesions appear.

Joint pain, stiffness and swelling are the main symptoms of psoriatic arthritis. They can affect any part of your body, including your fingertips and spine, and can range from relatively mild to severe. In both psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, disease flares may alternate with periods of remission.

No cure for psoriatic arthritis exists, so the focus is on controlling symptoms and preventing damage to your joints. Without treatment, psoriatic arthritis may be disabling.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications

Both psoriatic arthritis and psoriasis are chronic diseases that get worse over time, but you may have periods when your symptoms improve or go into remission alternating with times when symptoms become worse.

Psoriatic arthritis can affect joints on just one side or on both sides of your body. The signs and symptoms of psoriatic arthritis often resemble those of rheumatoid arthritis. Both diseases cause joints to become painful, swollen and warm to the touch.

However, psoriatic arthritis is more likely to also cause:

  • Swollen fingers and toes. Psoriatic arthritis can cause a painful, sausage-like swelling of your fingers and toes. You may also develop swelling and deformities in your hands and feet before having significant joint symptoms.
  • Foot pain. Psoriatic arthritis can also cause pain at the points where tendons and ligaments attach to your bones — especially at the back of your heel (Achilles tendinitis) or in the sole of your foot (plantar fasciitis).
  • Lower back pain. Some people develop a condition called spondylitis as a result of psoriatic arthritis. Spondylitis mainly causes inflammation of the joints between the vertebrae of your spine and in the joints between your spine and pelvis (sacroiliitis).

When to see a doctor

If you have psoriasis, be sure to tell your doctor if you develop joint pain. Psoriatic arthritis can come on suddenly or develop slowly, but in either case it can severely damage your joints if left untreated.

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