Psoriatic Arthritis: Learn the Warning Signs

Psoriatic arthritis happens when your body’s immune system causes inflammation where your tendons or ligaments connect to your bone.

About a third of people who have psoriasis get psoriatic arthritis. Symptoms may be severe and get worse quickly. They can also be mild and get worse slowly over many years.

This disease can happen at any age, but it’s usually found in people between 30 and 50 years old.

There’s no cure for psoriatic arthritis, but it’s important to discover it early so you and your doctor can make a treatment plan to slow the spread of the disease, ease pain, and protect your body. If left untreated, the disease can permanently harm joints and affect your range of motion.

It tends to run in families, too. If you’re related to someone with psoriatic arthritis, or if you have psoriasis, you should keep an eye out for symptoms.

What to Watch For

Symptoms can include:

Joint pain and stiffness. Psoriatic arthritis can affect your:

  • Ankles
  • Knees
  • Fingers
  • Toes
  • Lower back

Joints are more likely to be stiff first thing in the morning or after you rest for a while.

Joint warmth and swelling. Along with pain, inflammation can make your joints swollen and warm to the touch.

Nail problems. Psoriatic arthritis can make your fingernails and toenails to lift from their nail beds. It's a symptom unique to psoriatic arthritis.

Lower back pain. For about 20% of people with psoriatic arthritis, inflammation causes problems with the joints between your vertebrae, a condition called spondylitis. In more severe cases, this can cause joints to fuse together.

Dactylitis. This is when entire fingers or toes swell to look like sausages. Signs of dactylitis can help doctors distinguish psoriatic arthritis from rheumatoid arthritis, which may only affect one joint.

Eye problems. These can include:

  • Redness
  • Irritation
  • Conjunctivitis, which is inflammation of the layer that lines the white of your eye and the inside of your eyelid
  • Pinkeye
  • Disturbed vision

Foot pain. Two of the most common places to find psoriatic arthritis are at the Achilles tendon, which is between the calf muscle and heel, or the bottom of your foot.

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Elbow pain. The inflammation caused by psoriatic arthritis may make it feel a lot like tennis elbow, where you’d feel pain from the outside of your elbow into your forearm and wrist.

Fatigue. About half of people with psoriatic arthritis feel tiredness that affects their day-to-day activities. It’s caused by the inflammation that comes with psoriatic arthritis.

Trouble moving hands and fingers. The swelling and joint pain that can come with psoriatic arthritis can make even simple, day-to-day tasks hard.

What to Do

If you have any of the above symptoms, especially if you have psoriasis or it runs in your family, talk with your doctor or a rheumatologist (a doctor who specializes in arthritis) about what’s going on.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Nayana Ambardekar, MD on February 14, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

National Psoriasis Foundation: “About Psoriatic Arthritis.”

The Arthritis Foundation: “Psoriatic Arthritis Symptoms.”

National Psoriasis Foundation: “Could You Have Psoriatic Arthritis? Know the Signs.”

Mayo Clinic: “Psoriatic Arthritis,” “Tennis Elbow”

Spondylitis Association of America: “Overview of Psoriatic Arthritis.”

National Psoriasis Foundation: “Fatigue and Psoriatic Arthritis.”

American Society for Surgery of the Hand: “Psoriatic Arthritis.”

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