Without treatment, PsA can lead to serious joint symptoms and health complications. Though there’s no cure, many therapies can help manage symptoms and prevent disease progression and joint damage.

PsA often develops after psoriasis, though not always. It’s estimated that about 20% of people with psoriasis will eventually develop PsA.

In most cases of PsA, the person affected has had psoriasis for 7-10 years. For these reasons, PsA should be on the radar for anyone with psoriasis.

Read on to learn critical facts about this type of arthritis, including its possible causes, symptoms, and treatment options.

PsA is considered an immune-mediated disease. This means the condition is like an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks healthy tissues.

However, unlike fully autoimmune diseases, researchers have not identified the specific antibody that causes the symptoms.

If you have PsA, you’ll experience inflammation in the affected tissues, which can become painful and damaged over time. Your symptoms may include:

  • rash
  • joint swelling and pain
  • pitted nails

You may first notice symptoms such as swelling, pain, and warmth in your fingers, especially in the joints closest to your fingernails. It’s possible to experience significant swelling in the fingers and toes, also called dactylitis.

Symptoms of PsA may also develop in your wrists, knees, and ankles. Joint pain tends to develop asymmetrically. This means you may experience symptoms within different joints on different sides of your body. For example, PsA may develop in your left hand and right ankle.

As the condition progresses, it may affect the spine and hips in some people. In more severe PsA, the immune system may attack internal organs, such as your heart and lungs.

Unlike other autoimmune-type conditions, PsA can develop at any age. Most people receive a diagnosis at ages 30-50, but the condition can develop as early as childhood.

Also, while most autoimmune diseases tend to have a higher prevalence in women, PsA affects both women and men equally.

[the terms “male” and “female”]

In this article, we use “male and female” to refer to someone’s sex as determined by their chromosomes, and “men and women” when referring to their gender (unless quoting from sources using nonspecific language).

Sex is determined by chromosomes, and gender is a social construct that can vary between time periods and cultures. Both of these aspects are acknowledged to exist on a spectrum both historically and by modern scientific consensus.

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Skin plaques and joint pain are common in PsA. In addition, due to high levels of inflammation, fatigue can also occur. It may come and go and be severe enough to limit your everyday activities, such as work. It’s also possible for a low grade fever to accompany fatigue.

In addition, eye changes may occur in some people. This includes physical symptoms, such as redness, irritation, and pain — all of which can feel similar to pink eye. Persistent eye inflammation may also cause vision changes, such as blurry vision.

However, this condition may also lead to other, more serious, chronic health problems if left untreated. These may include gastrointestinal problems, breathing difficulties, and heart issues.

PsA may also increase your risk of osteoporosis and metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is an umbrella term that includes a group of related conditions, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.

There’s no single test to diagnose PsA. Instead, your doctor will look for signs of psoriasis and joint problems and ask you about skin and joint symptoms.

A skin biopsy may be ordered to confirm psoriasis if you have not already received a diagnosis of the skin condition.

A doctor will then order a series of blood tests that may indicate inflammation in the body, such as rheumatoid factor (RF) C-reactive protein.

An RF blood test is essential in differentiating PsA from other rheumatic diseases. People who have PsA are often RF-negative.

A positive result could indicate rheumatoid arthritis instead. But your doctor will likely order more testing.

Imaging tests — such as an ultrasound, MRI, or X-ray — can also help your doctor identify specific joints that may be affected by PsA.

Since it’s possible to develop multiple types of autoimmune diseases, a doctor may also check for these. Examples include inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), autoimmune thyroid diseases, and type 1 diabetes.

Treatment for PsA focuses on reducing joint damage and pain caused by underlying inflammation. This involves a combination of medications, such as disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and varies based on whether the disease primarily affects your spine or other joints.

Also, you may still need to work with a dermatologist to help treat your psoriasis symptoms. This may involve some of the same medications used for PsA and topical medications, such as corticosteroids or salicylic acid.

There’s no cure for PsA. Instead, treatment aims to control flares or periods of worsening symptoms.

Getting the right treatment can result in less inflammation and fewer flares. This can also help reduce your risk of further health complications from PsA.

What is the main cause of psoriatic arthritis?

There’s no single cause of psoriatic arthritis, and the triggers are highly individual. Psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, and conditions with autoimmune features may be hereditary.

Aside from a possible genetic component, psoriatic arthritis may be triggered by stress, physical trauma, or infection.

What not to do with psoriatic arthritis?

Because some foods can trigger PsA flares, it’s a good idea to limit or avoid added sugar, red meat, processed foods, dairy, and alcohol.

What is life expectancy with psoriatic arthritis?

Although there’s no cure, with proper treatment, most people with PsA can live typical life spans.

How quickly does psoriatic arthritis progress?

Among people living with psoriasis, PsA often develops about a decade after psoriasis first appears. There isn’t research to quantify the progression of PsA without psoriasis, and the number of people who develop PsA without psoriasis is likely to be small.

PsA can cause worsening joint issues and lead to other health problems if left untreated. There’s no cure yet, but multiple therapies can help control your symptoms, reduce the number of flares, and prevent related complications.

If you have psoriasis and are experiencing joint pain and inflammation, talk with a dermatologist or your primary care doctor. They may refer you to a rheumatologist who can help diagnose and treat PsA.