Psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis both cause inflammation in your body. Psoriasis primarily affects your skin, while psoriatic arthritis affects your joints. If you have psoriasis, you have an increased risk of developing psoriatic arthritis.
Psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis (PsA) are chronic autoimmune diseases that each have distinct characteristics. Psoriasis affects your skin and nails, while PsA primarily affects your joints. Both conditions cause inflammation and symptoms that flare up for periods of time.
The conditions can occur together but having one doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll develop the other. If you do get both conditions, you’ll most likely get psoriasis first and PsA later on.
In this article, you’ll learn about the connection between psoriasis and PsA, their similarities and differences, their causes, and their treatments.
Psoriasis and PsA are both autoimmune diseases that happen when your immune system attacks its own healthy tissues and cells. Researchers don’t know exactly why this happens, but they suspect that both genetics and environmental factors play a role.
Both conditions cause inflammation. This means they can affect many areas of your body, including your organs, joints, and other tissues.
Psoriasis primarily affects your skin. It causes your body to produce too many skin cells, which build up on your skin’s surface. This results in patches of thick, scaly, discolored skin that may itch, burn, or sting.
PsA primarily affects your joints, causing pain, swelling, and stiffness. It can also affect areas where tendons and ligaments meet bones. You may notice a notably swollen finger or toe, pain in your heels, or stiffness that improves with movement.
The symptoms of both psoriasis and PsA tend to come and go in flare-ups.
With psoriasis, your skin may completely clear up for periods of time. But at other times, your symptoms will be much worse than usual. At some points, you may have smaller, less painful plaques. But at other times, plaques may grow to cover larger areas of your body and become increasingly painful.
With PsA, you may have periods of lessened pain and other times where pain, swelling, and stiffness become severe enough to cause significant discomfort and impairment.
Both psoriasis and PsA flare-ups can be triggered by several factors. These include:
- other physical traumas (surgery, giving birth)
- illness or infection
- certain foods
Keeping a log of triggers and symptoms can help you track them over time and learn what sets off a flare-up.
Age of diagnosis
According to a 2021 study of people with both psoriasis and PsA, most people receive a diagnosis of psoriasis before they received a diagnosis of PsA. Only about 7% to 15% of people in the study received their PsA diagnosis first.
PsA becomes more common as people age. Most people receive a diagnosis of PsA around 10 years after they received a diagnosis of psoriasis.
Both conditions can cause inflammation throughout your body, but they tend to affect some areas more than others.
|Symptoms of psoriasis||Symptoms of PsA|
|raised, inflamed patches of skin (plaques) that look red on lighter skin and brown or purple on darker skin||swollen joints|
|whitish, silver, or gray scales on plaques||painful, tender joints|
|dry skin that may crack and bleed||swollen fingers or toes (dactylitis)|
|pain and tenderness around patches||pain where ligaments hit bone, usually with movement (enthesitis)|
|itching and burning sensations around patches||uveitis|
|thick, pitted nails||inflammatory bowel disease|
|spots, pustules, shiny red patches, or other skin changes||skin plaques or nail changes|
Researchers don’t know the exact cause of psoriasis and PsA. But researchers do know that they’re autoimmune conditions. This means they happen because your body’s immune system attacks its own healthy tissues and cells.
Some genetic factors place you at a higher risk of developing psoriasis or PsA. One 2019 study reported that more than 20% of people with psoriasis had a family member with a history of psoriasis.
People who develop PsA typically already have psoriasis. But you can develop it without having psoriasis, especially if you have family members who have it. Of those with PsA, 40% have a family member with psoriasis or arthritis.
A doctor or dermatologist can help you set up a treatment plan for psoriasis and PsA, which can help you avoid symptom flare-ups and keep them under control.
Treatment therapies for psoriasis include:
- light therapy
- medications that target your immune system
- topical corticosteroids
- topical salicylic acid
- topical medications made from vitamins or coal tar
Treatment for PsA might involve over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medications. These include:
Does psoriasis cause joint pain?
Psoriasis doesn’t cause joint pain. It produces an overabundance of skin cells and raised, thick plaques on your skin’s surface. PsA causes joint pain.
Does psoriasis turn into psoriatic arthritis?
Psoriasis can turn into PsA, but it doesn’t always. About 30% of people who have psoriasis develop PsA.
Are psoriatic arthritis and psoriasis the same thing?
PsA and psoriasis aren’t the same, but they are both autoimmune conditions. Psoriasis is a disease that affects your skin, causing thick, itchy plaques to form on your skin. PsA is a disease that causes inflammation, swelling, and damage in your joints.
Psoriasis and PsA are related, but different, diseases that happen when your body’s immune system attacks its own tissues. Developing one of these diseases doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll develop the other.
About 30% of people with psoriasis develop PsA. Psoriasis involves skin cells that grow too quickly. It causes thick, itchy plaques to form on your skin’s surface. PsA is a condition that affects your joints, causing inflammation, swelling, and pain.
Symptoms of both conditions tend to come and go in flare-ups, but the conditions themselves are chronic (lifelong). Doctors can prescribe OTC and prescription medications to help treat psoriasis and PsA, as well as light therapy for psoriasis. These can help you manage your symptoms.