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What is psoriatic arthritis?

Psoriatic arthritis is a chronic disease characterized by a form of inflammation of the skin (psoriasis) and joints (inflammatory arthritis). Psoriasis is a common skin condition affecting 2% of the Caucasian population in the United States. Signs and symptoms include patchy, raised, red areas of skin inflammation with scaling. Psoriasis often affects the tips of the elbows and knees, the scalp and ears, the navel, and around the genital areas or anus. Approximately 15%-25% of patients who have psoriasis also develop an associated inflammation of their joints. Patients who have inflammatory arthritis and psoriasis are diagnosed as having psoriatic arthritis.

Psoriatic arthritis can cause swollen, red, and painfully inflamed joints.
Psoriatic arthritis can cause swollen, red, and painfully inflamed joints.

The onset of psoriatic arthritis generally occurs in the fourth and fifth decades of life. Males and females are affected equally. The skin disease (psoriasis) and the joint disease (arthritis) often appear separately. In fact, the skin disease precedes the arthritis in nearly 80% of people. However, the arthritis may precede the psoriasis in up to 15% of patients. In some patients, the diagnosis of psoriatic arthritis can be difficult if the arthritis precedes psoriasis by many years. In fact, some patients have had arthritis for over 20 years before psoriasis eventually appears! Conversely, patients can have psoriasis for over 20 years prior to the development of arthritis, leading to the ultimate diagnosis of psoriatic arthritis.

Psoriatic arthritis is a systemic rheumatic disease that also can cause inflammation in body tissues away from the joints other than the skin, such as in the eyes, heart, lungs, and kidneys. Psoriatic arthritis shares many symptoms with several other arthritic conditions, such as ankylosing spondylitis, reactive arthritis, and arthritis associated with Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. All of these health conditions can cause inflammation in the spine and other joints, and the eyes, skin, mouth, and various organs. In view of their similarities and tendency to cause inflammation of the spine, these health conditions are collectively referred to as "spondyloarthropathies."

Picture of the inflammation of spondyloarthropathy
Return to Psoriatic Arthritis

See what others are saying

Comment from: GuineaPigPotter, 25-34 Female (Patient) Published: May 21

I've had scalp psoriasis since I was about nine years old, but it wasn't diagnosed until recently, at my age of 34. My mother has psoriasis all over and is suffering with psoriatic arthritis in her hands, feet, and terribly in her spine, but she got the symptoms of arthritis over a decade later than I have, and my pain is everywhere. I was a Thai boxer and a ceramic artist, and now, I hobble like a 100 year old granny. My arthritis is symmetrical and merciless. My toes, ankles, hands, wrists, shoulders, elbows, spine, and my hips all sing grand opera. I have disc degeneration in my whole spine, as well as a ton of disc herniation and sciatica. But, my hips, they feel like abscessed teeth chewing on rusty nails. The pain is so bad that hydrocodone 10 mg and Percocet won't touch it, and I cry myself to sleep almost every night. I don't understand why my arthritis is so much more aggressive than my mom's when her skin symptoms are so much worse! I am going to the rheumatologist next month, and hoping that I can get some relief. I'm too young for this nonsense and I want my life back!

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Comment from: Danielle, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: May 06

I have had psoriasis on elbows and knees and scalp since I was 16. Then 2 years ago when I was 48 I got swellings on my ankles and wrists. I was finally told I had psoriatic arthritis for which I have been taking naproxen which seemed to calm it down, but I felt extremely tired. When only working 3 days a week I was having to go to bed on the fourth day. I know I have arthritis in my neck but have been given exercises to do and if that does not work I will be referred to a specialist for physiotherapy. Apparently my great grandmother was crippled with arthritis from the age of 26 so my condition may be inherited.

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Comment from: Hopeful, 35-44 Male (Patient) Published: May 05

I am a 35 year male. I had psoriasis from the age of 12 or 13 with it reappearing at the age of 20. It still is here today after 15 years. At about the age of 30, I started having terrible back pain (sciatica like symptoms). Just last summer, I started having pain in my left knee and some of my other joints, along with the back pain. I finally found a family doctor who linked the psoriasis with the pain and set me up with a rheumatologist. I just started Humira a month ago. I haven't noticed any relief from the pain but I have noticed my psoriasis getting better. To all of you out there with this terrible disease, please keep your head up. Stay hopeful. Try to keep yourself going by exercising because it does help, just remember not to overdo it like me. I try to exercise too much then end up making my pain worse and then I can't exercise.

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