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Psoriatic Arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis is a long-term condition that causes pain and swelling in the joints. Over time, it can damage joints and cause disability. While associated with a skin condition called psoriasis, not everyone that has psoriasis will develop psoriatic arthritis.

Psoriatic arthritis is an autoimmune disease, which means the body attacks its own healthy tissue.

Risk Factors   

Factors that increase your chance of psoriatic arthritis includes having:

  • Psoriasis for 5-12 years
  • Psoriasis with symptoms such as lesions on the scalp and pitted or dented nails
  • A specific gene characteristic that has been linked to psoriatic arthritis
  • A family member with psoriatic arthritis

Psoriatic Arthritis Symptoms  

Psoriatic arthritis usually develops in people who already have psoriasis. Symptoms that may indicate the development of psoriatic arthritis include:

  • Joint pain and tenderness in one or more joints (can be any joint including knees, feet, hands, wrists, and elbows)
  • Joint swelling
  • Joint stiffness, especially in the morning
  • Red or warm joints
  • Changes in fingernails and toenails (pitting in the nails, crumbling nails, or nails separating from the nail bed)
  • Swelling of fingers
  • Pain and inflammation of tendons where they join muscles
  • Back pain
  • Fatigue


Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, especially information about your psoriasis. A physical exam will be done. Your doctor will rule out similar conditions with the physical exam.

To look for signs of an inflammation and cause of joint problem your doctor may order:

  • Blood tests to look for autoimmune disease
  • Analysis of the fluid in the joints
  • Tests to check how the immune system is functioning

Imaging tests may also be done to look for damage to the joint. Images may include:

  • X-rays
  • Ultrasound
  • MRI scan

Psoriatic Arthritis Treatment   

In addition to treating your psoriasis, your doctor will also create a treatment plan that focuses on your arthritis symptoms. Treatment may include medication or visits with a physical or occupational therapist to help you improve your range of motion and your ability to do everyday activities.

Proper weight management is associated with improved symptoms. Talk to a dietitian who can help you lose excess weight and keep it off.

Working with a mental health therapist may also be helpful for your overall well-being. You can learn ways to better cope with your chronic condition.


If you have severe pain and disability, your doctor may recommend:

  • Joint replacement surgery
  • Tendon surgery


Call 434.243.3675.


Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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