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What is psoriatic arthritis?

Understand causes and symptoms, and learn how to find a specialist

What is psoriatic arthritis?

Psoriatic arthritis is what it sounds like: psoriasis and arthritis. It usually includes a combination of skin and joint symptoms. Up to 30% of people with psoriasis may actually have or develop psoriatic arthritis. But, it often goes undiagnosed, especially if the symptoms are mild.

In addition to skin symptoms, psoriatic arthritis has some other common symptoms to look for, including:

  • Swollen and tender joints, often in the hands and feet
  • Fingers and toes that are swollen and "sausage-like"
  • Inflammation in the enthesis, the area where tendons or ligaments insert into bone. An example of this is swelling of back and bottom of the heel
  • Stiffness and tiredness
  • Limited range of motion (your ability to move your joints)
  • Changes in fingernails or toenails

Psoriatic arthritis can cause permanent joint damage, so it’s important to talk to your doctor about your symptoms to find a treatment that is right for you. Find a rheumatologist near you.

Psoriasis and joint pain

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Who gets psoriatic arthritis?

Psoriatic arthritis usually starts between the ages of 30–50, but it can appear at any age. It affects both men and women and does not have a set course.

  • About 75% of people have skin symptoms first. Joint problems tend to start later—on average 10 years after skin symptoms start
  • About 10%15% of people have arthritis symptoms first
  • About 10%15% of people have both skin and joint symptoms at the same time

Because each person with psoriatic arthritis is unique, be sure to talk to a rheumatologist who specializes in joint conditions.

What causes psoriatic arthritis?

Although the exact cause of psoriatic arthritis is not known, the immune system, family history, and environmental factors (like physical trauma or certain infections), all seem to play a role. There are actually a lot of similarities between what’s happening in the skin and what’s happening in the joints. In both, the immune system is not working properly. This causes skin cells to grow too quickly and joints to swell.

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