Psoriatic arthritis is a type of arthritis that affects about 20 to 30 percent of people with the autoimmune condition psoriasis. It develops when your immune system attacks healthy cells in your joints, leading to symptoms like joint pain, stiffness, or swelling.

For some people, symptoms can be severe enough to cause permanent disability.

Psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis can have many complications caused by inflammation throughout your body. Inflammation in your inner ear can cause dizziness or vertigo. Some medications used to treat psoriasis can also lead to these side effects.

Read on to learn more about the connection between psoriatic arthritis, dizziness, and vertigo.

Psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis raise levels of pro-inflammatory molecules called cytokines throughout your body. Elevated levels of these molecules lead to chronic inflammation that can raise your risk of many seemingly unrelated conditions, like:

Vertigo and dizziness are also potential complications of psoriatic arthritis. They develop mainly because of an atypical immune response directed against cells in your inner ear.

When your immune system attacks these cells, it can lead to inflammation and dysfunction of your vestibular system. Your vestibular system is a series of bony labyrinths in your inner ear that helps regulate your sense of balance.

In a small 2017 study, researchers found evidence that people with psoriatic arthritis had a higher frequency of vestibular dysfunction than the general population.

Among 60 people with psoriatic arthritis and 60 controls, one-third of people with psoriatic arthritis had vestibular dysfunction compared with only 6 percent of people in the control group.

Medications that cause dizziness

Psoriasis is often treated with drugs like TNF-alphas inhibitors, T-lymphocyte inhibitors, and interleukin inhibitors. Some of the medications used to treat psoriasis, like the following, can potentially cause dizziness as a side effect:

DrugFrequency dizziness is reported
Certolizumab pegolseldom
Golimumabseldom to often
T-lymphocyte inhibitorsoften

Vertigo is often confused with dizziness. The two conditions are similar but not the same.

Vertigo is the feeling the world is spinning in the absence of movement. Dizziness is a more general term that refers to the feeling that you or your surroundings are moving when they’re not.

Inflammation in your inner ear associated with psoriatic arthritis can also potentially contribute to the development of vertigo.

In the 2017 study, researchers found that two people with psoriatic arthritis had vertigo, versus no one in the control group.

Treating psoriatic arthritis may help reduce associated inflammation and help ease dizziness or vertigo. Treatment for psoriatic arthritis focuses on:

  • improving your quality of life
  • slowing the progression of your condition
  • reducing your symptoms

The main medications for psoriatic arthritis include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). NSAIDs are often the first medication used to help reduce pain and inflammation associated with psoriatic arthritis. They may include ibuprofen or COX-2 inhibitors like celecoxib.
  • Corticosteroids. Corticosteroid injections are used to reduce swelling in a single joint while oral corticosteroids can help reduce inflammation throughout your body. Oral corticosteroids are often prescribed conservatively due to the risk of side effects.
  • Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs). DMARDs work by blocking chemicals released when your immune system damages your joints. They may help reduce symptoms or slow the progression of arthritis.
  • Biologic treatments. You may be offered biological treatments if DMARDs aren’t effective. They work by blocking pathways in your body that create inflammation.

Vestibular rehabilitation is an exercise program that may help reduce dizziness or vertigo. Research has found that it can be effective for treating symptoms of many inner ear disorders. It’s usually performed by a physical or occupational therapist with specialized training.

Psoriatic arthritis primarily affects the joints in your fingers, wrists, ankles, or knees. Symptoms can include:

  • pain
  • tenderness
  • warmth
  • swelling

Some people also experience symptoms that affect their nails. They can include:

If psoriatic arthritis isn’t treated properly, you can develop other health problems like:

  • damage to the cartilage at the ends of your bones
  • redness and pain around your eyes
  • vision problems

It’s generally a good idea to visit a doctor any time you have dizziness or vertigo without a known cause.

Medical emergency

It’s important to seek immediate emergency medical attention if you also have symptoms that can indicate a medical emergency, like:

Most people who develop psoriatic arthritis already have a diagnosis of psoriasis. Regular follow-ups with your doctor are an important part of treating psoriasis. It’s a good idea to visit your doctor if:

  • you notice any new symptoms of psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis
  • your psoriasis is causing a persistent itch
  • your condition is impacting your daily life
  • your joints are causing you pain
  • you have questions about treatment

Dizziness and vertigo are potential side effects of psoriatic arthritis.

They can develop due to inflammation in the part of your inner ear that controls your balance called your vestibular system. Some medications used to treat psoriatic arthritis can also potentially cause these symptoms.

If you have psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis, it’s important to visit a doctor any time you notice new symptoms. A doctor can help you rule out other causes of these new symptoms and help you develop the best treatment plan.