Psoriatic Arthritis: Meet Your Health Care Team

Medically Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on June 30, 2023
3 min read

Psoriatic arthritis is a disease that inflames the joints and skin. It can also affect other parts of your body, like your eyes, nails, lungs, and digestive system.

Some people with psoriatic arthritis also have conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease. Because psoriatic arthritis is complex and affects many parts of your body, treating it may need a team approach.

You'll probably see a few different doctors and other specialists to find out what's causing your symptoms and get you the right treatment. All of these providers might be in the same treatment center. Or they may be at different offices. That could involve some coordination on your part.

Your primary care doctor is often the first person you'll see when you have symptoms of psoriatic arthritis. This doctor can have the title of medical doctor (MD) or doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO).

Your primary care doctor helps keep you healthy overall. This person suggests ways to prevent illness, tests you for diseases, and refers you to specialists when you have a problem with a certain part of your body (your heart, skin, lungs, etc.).

Two specialists treat the main symptoms of psoriatic arthritis:

A rheumatologist diagnoses and treats arthritis and other diseases affecting the joints. This doctor will come up with a treatment plan for you. Then your rheumatologist will monitor you to make sure the treatment is slowing your disease and controlling symptoms like joint pain, swelling, and stiffness.

A dermatologist treats diseases of the skin and nails, which includes the psoriasis part of psoriatic arthritis. You might see a dermatologist before you visit a rheumatologist, because psoriasis often starts first.

These are some other members of a psoriatic arthritis health care team:

Physical therapist. This person teaches you exercises and recommends other treatments to relieve stiff, painful joints and help you move more easily and comfortably.

Occupational therapist. This specialist shows you how to perform daily activities more easily and with less pain. An occupational therapist can help you redesign your home and office to make them more comfortable for your joints.

Nurse. You'll see a nurse when you visit your doctor. The nurse will ask about your symptoms and help coordinate care with the other members of your psoriatic arthritis team. They can also connect you with resources in your community and explain how to take your medicine.

Surgeon. If you have joint damage from psoriatic arthritis, an orthopedic surgeon will perform the procedure to fix or replace those joints. A plastic surgeon repairs deformed joints.

Depending on other conditions you have, you could also see one or more of these health care providers:

Cardiologist. Psoriatic arthritis increases your risk for heart disease. A cardiologist treats diseases of the heart and blood vessels. This doctor will ask about your symptoms, do tests to check your heart health, and prescribe treatments if you do have heart problems.

Mental health professionals. Living with a chronic disease can be stressful, especially when it's as visible as psoriasis is on your skin. It's normal for the pain and other symptoms of psoriatic arthritis to make you feel depressed or anxious. A psychologist, therapist, or other mental health provider can help as you live with your disease and feel less stressed.

If you see many different providers for psoriatic arthritis, make sure each one knows all the treatments you’ve been prescribed. Some of the medicines you take to manage one condition can cause problems in others.

For example, the steroid drugs your rheumatologist prescribes to bring down joint swelling can raise your blood sugar, which is a problem if you have diabetes. To avoid medication issues, you can ask your primary care doctor or rheumatologist to coordinate care with all of your other providers.