Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that causes your body to make new skin cells too quickly. These skin cells pile up and cause scaly patches and itching. A dermatologist, a doctor who specializes in conditions of the skin, hair, and nails, can generally diagnose this condition in a single office visit.

Psoriatic arthritis is a painful type of arthritis that can develop in people who have psoriasis. There is no specific test for this condition, but a healthcare professional can run tests to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms.

A dermatologist generally diagnoses psoriasis. They will ask you questions during your appointment to help pinpoint whether your skin symptoms are psoriasis. Common questions include:

  • Are you experiencing itching, swelling, or redness?
  • Are you experiencing any joint stiffness or swelling when you first wake up?
  • Have you seen thick and scaly patches on your skin?
  • When did you first notice your symptoms?
  • Do you have any family members with psoriasis?
  • Have you recently been under increased stress?
  • Have you recently recovered from a major illness?

A dermatologist will also examine your skin, scalp, and nails for any signs of psoriasis. A skin examination is often enough to diagnose psoriasis. A skin biopsy will be done if more information is needed to confirm the diagnosis.

A skin biopsy is performed by removing a tiny piece of skin. The skin sample is then examined under a microscope to look for signs of psoriasis.

There is no definitive test for psoriatic arthritis. However, your doctor might suspect it if you have psoriasis and have been experiencing joint pain and swelling. They’ll start the diagnostic process with a physical exam.

Your doctor will check your fingernails for any abnormalities such as pitting. They’ll also examine your joints and feet for any tenderness.

Your doctor might order an X-ray to see if there have been any changes to your joints that are common in psoriatic arthritis. It’s likely your doctor will also order a series of tests to be performed to help rule out other causes of pain or types of arthritis.

Tests might include:

  • A blood draw to look for the rheumatoid factor antibody that is a sign of rheumatoid arthritis.
  • A joint fluid test to look for uric acid crystals that are a sign of gout.
  • A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to test for structural issues with your joints and ligaments.

There is no cure for psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis. However, diagnosis is the first step to getting treatment. There are multiple treatment options available for psoriasis. It can take time to figure out the best treatment approach for your specific situation.

Treatments can include:

  • Topical creams. Corticosteroids creams are commonly prescribed treatments for psoriasis and come in multiple strengths and forms. Corticosteroids can be used during flare-ups or to prevent flare-ups. Other common topical options include vitamin D creams and calcineurin inhibitors.
  • Light therapy. Light therapy exposes your skin to controlled amounts of light to help it heal. This includes planned daily exposure to sunlight and targeted laser treatment.
  • Medications. Prescription medications can help when topical creams are not doing enough to manage your psoriasis. This might include oral medications or injections. Common options include:
    • steroids
    • retinoids
    • immunosuppressives
    • biologics
    • medications that reduce itching

Treatment for psoriatic arthritis will focus on:

  • managing your pain
  • reducing inflammation
  • preventing joint damage

You’ll likely be prescribed a pain reliever and immunosuppressives. You’ll also be prescribed medications called disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) that can slow the progression of arthritis. You might also receive steroid injections to help reduce inflammation.

Psoriasis can often be diagnosed in a single office visit. A diagnosis of psoriatic arthritis can take more time. Your doctor might need to rule out other conditions such as gout or rheumatoid arthritis before a diagnosis can be confirmed.

Psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis are chronic conditions, but they can be managed with a treatment plan designed to address your specific needs.