Frequently Asked Questions About Psoriatic Arthritis

What is psoriatic arthritis?

Psoriatic arthritis [pronounced sore-ee-AA-tic] causes pain, stiffness and swelling in and around the joints and places where tendons and ligaments connect to bone. Without treatment, psoriatic arthritis can potentially be disabling.

What causes psoriatic arthritis?

Both genetic and environmental factors seem to be associated with the development of psoriatic arthritis. The immune system plays an important role. Psoriatic arthritis is linked to psoriasis on the skin; in 85 percent of individuals, skin disease preceded joint disease.

What are the symptoms of psoriatic arthritis?

  • Tender swollen joints
  • Swollen and tender entheses (where a muscle or ligament attaches to a bone)
  • Back pain
  • Nail changes—for example, a nail that separates from the nail bed and/or becomes pitted and mimics fungal infections
  • Morning stiffness and tiredness
  • Generalized fatigue
  • A reduced range of motion
  • Redness and pain of the tissues surrounding the eyes, such as conjunctivitis

How is psoriatic arthritis diagnosed?

There is no specific test for psoriatic arthritis. The diagnosis is based mostly on symptoms, examination, X-rays and the elimination of other types of arthritis. If you have psoriasis and experience persistent joint pain, you may have psoriatic arthritis and you should see a rheumatologist. These doctors specialize in arthritis and can provide further evaluation and/or a diagnosis.

Is all psoriatic arthritis the same?

No. There are considered to be five different forms of psoriatic arthritis:

  • Symmetric: Affects multiple symmetric pairs of joints (occurs in the same joints on both sides of the body).
  • Oligoarticular: Affects few joints in an asymmetric pattern and is usually milder.
  • Distal interphalangeal (DIP): Affects primarily the distal joints of the fingers and toes (the joints closest to the nail).
  • Spondylitis: Predominantly affects the spinal column from the neck to the lower back.
  • Arthritis mutilans: Affects the small joints of the hands and feet, although it can appear in other joints. This rare form of arthritis is severe and destructive.

What treatments are available for psoriatic arthritis?

Drugs for the treatment of psoriatic arthritis are divided into three main categories:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) include over-the-counter medications such as aspirin and ibuprofen as well as prescription products.
  • Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) may relieve more severe symptoms and attempt to slow or stop joint/tissue damage and the progression of psoriatic arthritis.
  • Biologics such as Enbrel, Humira, and Remicade are also considered DMARDs. They are highly selective agents that target specific parts of the immune system that cause psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.

Learn more about treatments for psoriatic arthritis »