Psoriatic Arthritis

Psoriatic Arthritis causes pain and inflammation in joints in people with psoriasis.

In most people, psoriatic arthritis occurs approximately 10 years after the onset of psoriasis. Dermnet NZOpens in a new tab. explains that approximately 13-17% of people with psoriasis, end up being diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis.



Signs and symptoms of psoriatic arthritis

The symptoms of psoriatic arthritis can come and go. Often symptoms occur when there is a psoriasis flare-up.

Men and women are equally affected by the condition.

Some of the signs and symptoms include:

  • Morning stiffness
  • Swollen and painful joints
  • Painful muscles
  • Painful tendons such as the sole of the foot, i.e. Plantar Fascitis
  • Nail pitting and changes in your nail bed
  • Fatigue
  • Eye redness and pain
  • Flaky and itchy scales
  • Psoriasis flare-ups in conjunction with joint pain
  • Swollen joints especially in hands and feet

Psoriatic arthritis and the effects on the body

Effects of Psoriatic Arthritis on the body (Image by Medical News TodayOpens in a new tab.)

The 5 Types of Psoriatic Arthritis

There are different types of psoriatic arthritis, such as: 

  • Symmetric psoriatic arthritis where symptoms affect five or more joints on both sides of the body. Symptoms can be similar to rheumatoid arthritis. More than half of all diagnosed cases are of this type.
  • Distal Psoriatic arthritis causes pain and swelling in hands and feet. Approximately 10% of people with psoriatic arthritis have this type.
  • Asymmetric psoriatic arthritis affects less than five joints
  • Psoriatic arthritis mutilans may deform joints and cause shortening of fingers and toes and can affect the neck and lower back. This type is present in 5% of cases.
  • Spondylitis psoriatic arthritis mainly involves your spine. This type can cause weakness and swelling in the wrists, knees, hands, feet, hands and hips. Can cause back pain and stiffness.

What causes psoriatic arthritis?

In short, doctors don’t know exactly what causes people to develop psoriatic arthritis. We do know that in psoriatic arthritis, your immune system sees your skin and joints as a threat and starts to attack them.

It is thought that it is a combination of genetics, immune system and environmental factors. There are particular triggers that may cause the development of psoriatic arthritis, those include trauma, injury, excessive stress and viral infection.

See more on the effects of chronic stress on our bodies.

Risk factors for psoriatic arthritis

  • Diagnosis of psoriasis
  • You have a family member with psoriatic arthritis
  • Had a viral illness such as strep throat
  • Have HIV

How is it diagnosed?

Your doctor will do an assessment based on a physical assessment and your symptoms.

Your doctor may order blood tests, which may rule out other types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

If your doctor suspects you have psoriatic arthritis, he will refer you to a specialist doctor such as rheumatologist for further investigations and a management/ treatment plan.

What are the complications of psoriatic arthritis?

Having psoriatic arthritis can increase the risk of further health complications. People may have increased risk of:

  • Depression
  • Fatty liver disease
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Cardiovascular diseases

Complications of psoriatic arthritis and the burden of disease. Psoriatic arthritis signs and symptoms.
Burden of Psoriatic Arthritis (SourceOpens in a new tab.)

My experience with psoriatic arthritis

From my experience, some people with long term psoriasis have no knowledge of psoriatic arthritis. I have seen patients with poorly managed psoriasis with accompanying joint pain who just assumed it was osteoarthritis due to age. It’s important to see a rheumatologist if joint pain worsens during flare-ups to ensure yours on the right treatment.

More resources

Click here to download a printable information sheet on psoriatic arthritis from Arthritis AustraliaOpens in a new tab.

Click here to download the Psoriatic arthritis booklet from Arthritis Australia Opens in a new tab.

Take home message

If you feel you have any of these signs or symptoms, please follow up with your doctor for further investigations and referral to a rheumatologist. There are treatments available to reduce the symptoms associated with psoriatic arthritis, unfortunately, there is no cure.

Emilie MASI

Nurse Practitioner Masters in Advanced Nursing Practice Graduate Diploma of Wound Care Masters of Wound Care

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