Health Conditions Hub Psoriasis

Psoriatic Arthritis: What It Is

Without treatment, this form of arthritis can be disabling

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 show up before skin lesions appear.

The main symptoms of psoriatic arthritis are joint pain, stiffness and swelling, and they can affect any part of your body, including the fingertips and spine. Disease flares, which can range from mild to severe, may alternate with periods of remission.

Psoriatic arthritis occurs when your body’s immune system begins to attack healthy cells and tissue, causing inflammation in your joints and overproduction of skin cells. Experts don’t know why the immune system turns on healthy tissue, but it’s likely genetic and environmental factors play a role. (Many people with psoriatic arthritis have a family history of psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis.)

There is no cure for psoriatic arthritis, so using medication to control symptoms and prevent damage to your joints is key. Without treatment, psoriatic arthritis may be disabling.

Psoriatic arthritis can resemble rheumatoid arthritis—both diseases cause joints to become painful, swollen and warm to the touch—but psoriatic arthritis is more likely to cause:

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Swollen fingers and toes. Psoriatic arthritis can cause a painful, sausage-like swelling of your fingers and toes. Swelling and deformities in your hands and feet may occur before you experience 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 or in the sole of your foot.
Lower back pain. Some people develop spondylitis (inflammation of the joints between the vertebrae of your spine and the joints between your spine and pelvis) as a result of psoriatic arthritis.
To get the best care for psoriatic arthritis, you should see a rheumatologist.

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