Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is a form of arthritis that affects some people with psoriasis and causes inflammation in the joints. If you are living with PsA, you may find that you may experience stiffness, pain, or tenderness in your ankles.

With PsA, the immune system accidentally sets off the inflammatory response that attacks the synovial membrane. This membrane surrounds your joints. When it is under attack, you can experience swelling and pain in your joints.

When left untreated, this inflammation can break down your cartilage and bones. This, in turn, can cause additional mobility concerns.

Here’s what you need to know about PsA and your ankles.

Yes, you can develop PsA in your ankles.

Stiff, swollen, and painful ankles are a common sign of PsA. In addition to your ankles, you can experience PsA swelling in any of the 26 bones and 33 joints found in your foot.

You may experience symptoms in one or several of the joints in your foot or ankle. You also may develop symptoms slowly, starting in only one or two joints, then spreading to other parts of your ankle or foot.

When you have pain in your ankle, foot, or heel, the likely cause is enthesitis. This is inflammation (swelling) of the enthesis, the area where your ligaments or tendons insert into the bones of a joint, like the ankle.

Enthesitis is a condition unique to PsA and other types of spondyloarthropathies. These are conditions that can affect your spine.

In fact, enthesitis affects about 35 to 50 percent of people living with PsA.

When PsA causes enthesitis in your ankle, it often affects your Achilles tendon, according to 2018 research. You use your Achilles tendon for movements like jumping, walking, and running.

When enthesitis affects this tendon, you will likely find it painful to do these physical activities.

PsA can affect both ankles, but it’s more likely to affect only one. This is because PsA often affects the body asymmetrically (unevenly). The pain and stiffness can be mild or severe enough to limit mobility and quality of life.

If you have PsA in your ankle or foot, you may notice swelling or stiffness. It is often worse in the morning and can get better throughout the day.

Some other signs to look for include:

  • fatigue
  • skin rash or plaques that often present as red patches of skin with silvery scales
  • swollen toes
  • eye inflammation
  • nail changes
  • lower back pain
  • pain in your foot, heel, or ankle

There is no cure for PsA, but treatment can help improve your range of motion and quality of life. It can also help slow the progression of the condition.

Some research from 2010 suggests that PsA itself is not life threatening but it can lead to a slightly shorter lifespan.

This may be due to other comorbidities — in other words, conditions or risk factors that occur at the same time as your PsA — such as an increased risk of cancer or heart disease.

To help reduce the risk of potentially life threatening comorbidities, researchers suggest taking the following steps:

  • Consume a diet full of vegetables, fiber, and fruit.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Get regular screenings for cancer and other health conditions.
  • If you smoke, try to quit.
  • Reduce or limit alcohol consumption, if you drink.

Light to moderate exercise, like walking, can help with PsA symptoms. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, low impact exercise can:

  • improve your range of motion
  • reduce inflammation and pain
  • loosen up your joints

Exercise and staying physically active is good for arthritis, but you need to know your limits.

If you are living with mild or moderate PsA, you might find walking tolerable. If you are living with more severe PsA, you may find walking for exercise too painful.

When you walk, you place a lot of stress and strain on your foot and ankle. These bones and joints provide shock absorption, support, balance, and other important functions for movement.

If PsA affects your ankle, you may find that the pain prevents you from doing much while on your feet. You should consider talking with your doctor about using braces or inserts to help soothe the pain when you walk.

You can also try swimming or other low impact activities that do not put additional weight or strain on your feet and ankles. You may also find that aerobic activities, like riding a bike or elliptical machine, are more comfortable.

Regular exercise also contributes to your overall health and wellness.

PsA often causes pain, swelling, or stiffness in the ankle. When it occurs, it may limit your mobility and cause additional health complications.

However, you can take actions to improve your symptoms and quality of life. These include doing physical activities when possible and working with your doctor on solutions to control inflammation and pain.