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Understanding Psoriatic Arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis is joint pain and swelling that occurs in some people who have psoriasis. Psoriasis is a skin disease that causes scaly skin patches. People who have psoriasis may develop psoriatic arthritis later. In some cases, psoriatic arthritis develops before psoriasis.

Front view of knee joint showing inflammation and arthritis.

 How to say it

sor-ee-A-tik arthritis

What causes psoriatic arthritis?

Doctors don't know the exact cause of psoriatic arthritis. But it's linked to problems with the body’s infection-fighting system (immune system). Other factors include:

  • Family history. People who have psoriatic arthritis often have relatives with either psoriasis or arthritis, or both.

  • Certain infections. These include strep infections and HIV.

  • Environment. Stress, injury to skin, and certain medicines may trigger psoriasis to become active.

What are the symptoms of psoriatic arthritis?

Symptoms may include:

  • Pain, tenderness, and swelling in any joint, including the spine

  • Joint or back stiffness, especially in the morning

  • Patches of rough skin that are usually red underneath and scaly and white or silver on top

  • Fingernail problems, such as pitted, or crumbly nails, or nails that are detached from the nail bed

  • Pain and swelling where muscles attach to bones

  • Swelling of fingers or toes

  • Eye redness or inflammation

How is psoriatic arthritis treated?

Psoriatic arthritis doesn't go away. It's a long-term (chronic) condition that needs long-term treatment. Medicines are an important part of treatment. These medicines are often used:

  • Prescription or over-the-counter pain medicines to help reduce swelling and pain

  • Prescription medicines that limit the effect of the immune system. They may reduce or prevent joint damage. Methotrexate is a pill commonly used. Biologic and targeted synthetic medicines and skin patches may also be used to treat psoriatic arthritis.

  • Steroid injections in affected joints to help ease symptoms

  • Topical medicines for rough skin patches to ease discomfort and dryness

In addition to medicines, these treatments may be recommended:

  • Regular exercise to improve flexibility and strength

  • Physical therapy to help ease pain and improve flexibility

  • Heat packs to help ease pain and swelling

  • Shoe inserts to keep your feet and ankles stable, and to help with foot pain

What are the complications of psoriatic arthritis?

Possible complications include:

  • Joint damage that gets worse

  • Reduced ability to use affected joints

When should I call my healthcare provider?

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of the following occur:

  • You have a fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider

  • You have pain that gets worse

  • You have symptoms that don’t get better, or symptoms that get worse

  • You develop new symptoms

Online Medical Reviewer: Diane Horowitz MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Rita Sather RN
Date Last Reviewed: 8/1/2022
© 2000-2024 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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