What are psoriatic arthritis and psoriasis?

Psoriatic arthritis and psoriasis are two chronic diseases. Their names may sound similar, but they are different conditions.

Psoriatic arthritis is an inflammatory form of arthritis. It can affect joints on one or both sides of the body. Psoriasis is an immune system disorder that affects the skin.

The two diseases share some genetic similarities. The link isn’t fully understood, however.

You can have psoriatic arthritis if you don’t have psoriasis. You can also have psoriasis without having psoriatic arthritis. About 30 percent of people with psoriasis also have psoriatic arthritis.

Read more: How are psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis connected? »

Psoriatic arthritis causes stiffness, pain, and swelling around the joints. It can also lead to fatigue and changes to the nails.

Symptoms of psoriatic arthritis include:

  • tenderness, pain, or swelling in tendons
  • swelling in fingers or toes
  • throbbing, stiffness, swelling, and soreness in joints
  • eye pain and redness, including conjunctivitis
  • decreased range of motion
  • nail changes, including pitted nails or separation from the nail bed

Psoriasis mainly affects the skin. It can also affect your nails. Some of the main symptoms of psoriasis include:

  • raised, red, inflamed lesions on the torso, elbows, and knees
  • silvery, scaly plaques on the skin
  • small, red, individual spots on the skin
  • dry skin that can crack and bleed
  • itchy, burning, or sore skin
  • nails separating from the nail bed

You’re at an increased risk for psoriatic arthritis if you have psoriasis. Family history of the condition also increases your risk. Many people with psoriatic arthritis have a parent or a sibling with the disease.

Age is another factor. People between the ages of 30 and 50 are at increased risk of developing psoriatic arthritis.

There is not a single test available that can confirm psoriatic arthritis. Your doctor will likely examine your joints and fingernails, and press on your heels and feet to see if certain areas are tender. X-rays and MRI scans can be used to rule out other causes of joint pain.

Laboratory tests, such as the rheumatoid factor test or the cyclic citrullinated peptide test, can suggest the possibility of rheumatoid arthritis.

Your doctor may also take fluid from a joint, usually the knee, to rule out gout.

There’s no cure for psoriatic arthritis. Your doctor will instead focus on helping you manage your symptoms.

Common medications used to treat psoriatic arthritis include the following:

  • nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen sodium (Aleve)
  • disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs, such as methotrexate (Trexall), sulfasalazine (Azulfidine), and leflunomide (Arava)
  • immunosuppressants, such as azathioprine (Azasan, Imuran) and cyclosporine (Gengraf, Neoral, Sandimmune)
  • Tumor necrosis factor-alpha medications, including etanercept (Enbrel), golimumab (Simponi), adalimumab (Humira), and infliximab (Inflectra, Remicade)
  • plaque psoriasis medications, which include ustekinumab (Stelara), secukinumab (Cosentyx), and apremilast (Otezla)

Why is early treatment important?

Psoriatic arthritis can cause permanent joint damage when left untreated. In severe cases, the joints may become so damaged that they no longer function. This is why recognizing it early is important for overall health.

Having psoriatic arthritis also increases your risks for other conditions, including:

If you have psoriatic arthritis, it’s important to see your doctor for regular checkups. During your regular checkups, your doctor can monitor your weight, and cardiovascular and mental health. They can also test you for diabetes. Screenings can help you start treatment early if you develop any other conditions.

You can have psoriatic arthritis if you don’t have psoriasis. People with psoriasis are at an increased risk for this condition, however.

There’s no cure for psoriatic arthritis. With early diagnosis, your doctor can treat your symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.

Read more: People like me: Living with psoriatic arthritis »