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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.

 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 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 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 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 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. Injectable “biologic” 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:

  • 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 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: Amy Finke RN BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Diane Horowitz MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 5/1/2016
© 2000-2019 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. 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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