Psoriatic Arthritis: What You Need to Know

Editor’s note: Psoriatic arthritis, a troublesome condition, is often difficult to detect. Here, the American Academy of Dermatology tells you what you need to know about its symptoms, diagnosis and management.

Do you have psoriasis? If so, it’s important to pay attention to your joints. Some people who have psoriasis get a type of arthritis called psoriatic arthritis.

This arthritis often begins with a few swollen joints. A single finger or toe may be noticeably swollen. Some people feel stiff when they wake up. As they move around, the stiffness fades.

Most people get psoriatic arthritis about 5 to 12 years after psoriasis. This arthritis can show up earlier. Some people get psoriatic arthritis and psoriasis at the same time. A few get psoriatic arthritis first and psoriasis later.

If you have psoriasis, there is no way to tell whether you will get psoriatic arthritis. This is why it is important to pay attention to swollen joints. An early diagnosis and treatment will help. These can reduce the effect that arthritis has on your life.

Treatment for psoriatic arthritis includes physical therapy, arthritis-friendly exercise, and medicine. A few medicines can prevent psoriatic arthritis from worsening and damaging your joints. Not everyone needs this medicine.

Like psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis is often a lifelong medical condition. It can flare and clear unpredictably.

How to recognize psoriatic arthritis

For most people, psoriatic arthritis develops years after psoriasis. Tell your dermatologist if you have psoriasis and any of these signs and symptoms:

A very noticeable swollen finger or toe.

Swollen and tender joints.

Stiffness when you wake up or sit for hours; stiffness fades as you move.

Nails that are pitted.

Nail separating from nail bed.

Lower back pain.

Heel pain.

Swelling on the back of your leg above your heel.

Who gets psoriatic arthritis?

Most people who get psoriatic arthritis have one or more of the following:

Psoriasis (plaque, guttate, or pustular).

Psoriasis that affects their nails.

Blood relatives who have psoriatic arthritis.

Psoriatic arthritis usually appears about 5 to 12 years after psoriasis begins. It is equally common in men and women. Most people develop it between 30 and 50 years of age. But psoriatic arthritis can begin at any age. Children may even get psoriatic arthritis.

It is important to know that not everyone who gets psoriasis will eventually develop psoriatic arthritis. There is no way to tell who will get psoriatic arthritis. You should tell your dermatologist if you have joint pain or stiffness when you wake up, or swollen joints that come and go. These are often the earliest symptoms.

What causes psoriatic arthritis?