Overview

Psoriatic arthritis is a form of arthritis that can affect people who have psoriasis. In most cases, people develop psoriasis first and are later diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis, but in some cases the joint problems can appear before the skin lesions appear.

Causes

Psoriatic arthritis is caused by the immune system attacking healthy cells and tissues. This abnormal response causes inflammation in your joints as well as overproduction of skin cells. The reason why the immune system attacks healthy tissue is not entirely clear, but researchers believe that both genetic and environmental factors play a role.

Symptoms

Symptoms for psoriatic arthritis include: joint pain, stiffness and swelling. Psoriatic arthritis can affect any part of your body and can range from relatively mild to severe. Just like psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis has flare-ups and may alternate with periods of remission.

Psoriatic arthritis may also cause:

  • Swollen fingers and toes. People with psoriatic arthritis can have a painful, swelling of your fingers and toes.
  • Foot pain. Pain located at the points where tendons and ligaments attach to your bones can also occur. The most common places are at the back of your heal (Achilles tendinitis) and in the sole of your foot (plantar fasciitis).
  • Lower back pain. A conditioned called spondylitis can develop as a result of psoriatic arthritis. Spondylitis causes inflammation of the joints between the vertebrae of your spine and in the joints between your spine and pelvis.

Treatment

There is no cure for psoriatic arthritis. The focus of treatments for psoriatic arthritis is on controlling the symptoms of the disease and preventing damage to your joints. If the disease goes untreated, it may become disabling.

Treatments for psoriatic arthritis include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to help manage pain and reduce inflammation.
  • Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) to reduce pain and inflammation and slow further joint damage.
  • Immunosuppressant medications work by suppressing your immune system.
  • TNF-alpha inhibitors are used in people with severe psoriatic arthritis. These inhibitors work by blocking the protein that causes inflammation and can sometimes improve signs and symptoms of psoriasis.