Understanding Psoriatic Arthritis

Front view of knee joint showing inflammation and 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.

How to say it

sor-ee-A-tik arthritis

What causes psoriatic arthritis?

The exact cause of psoriatic arthritis is not known, but it is 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 streptococcal infections and HIV.

  • An injury to the skin or to a joint

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 does not go away. It is 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. These 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. Injectable “biologic” medicines and skin patches may also be used to treat psoriatic arthritis.

  • Steroid injections into affected joints. This may help relieve symptoms.

  • Topical medicines for rough skin patches. These may relieve discomfort and dryness.

In addition to medicines, these treatments may be recommended:

  • Regular exercise to improve flexibility and strength

  • Physical therapy to help relieve pain and improve flexibility

  • Heat packs to help relieve pain and swelling

  • Shoe inserts to improve foot and ankle stability, and help with foot pain

What are the complications of psoriatic arthritis?

Possible complications include:

  • Worsening joint damage

  • Reduced ability to use affected joints

When should I call my healthcare provider?

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

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

  • You have pain that gets worse

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

  • You develop new symptoms