What Is Psoriatic Arthritis (PsA)? | Arthritis.com

What Is Psoriatic Arthritis?

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Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is an autoimmune diseaseCLOSE Autoimmune disease: a disease that happens when a person’s immune system attacks their own body. that affects different parts of the body. When this happens, you may experience various symptoms, including joint pain, swelling, and skin lesions. Sometimes these symptoms develop at the same time, and sometimes they can happen separately over a period of time. Read on to learn more about PsA.

 

PsA Symptoms

PsA may affect more than just the joints—causing spine, skin, and nail symptoms. While some people with PsA experience a mild form of the disease with occasional flaresCLOSE Flares: periods of increased disease activity and symptoms., others may experience symptoms continuously. Keep in mind that flares don’t always occur in the same part of the body.

As people with PsA know, the disease is often hard to diagnose, in part because its symptoms can overlap with other inflammatory conditions and because there are no specific blood tests or diagnostic markers for this condition.

You may notice any of the following symptoms:

  • Joint Pain and Swelling

    Most commonly in the fingers, toes, wrists, ankles, and shoulders

  • Nail Pitting

    Separation of the nail or deep/shallow holes on the nail

  • Dactylitis

    Inflammation that can make fingers and toes appear swollen and enlarged

  • Enthesitis

    Inflammation where bones attach to tendons or ligaments, usually in the ankle

  • Spondylitis

    Spine inflammation that causes stiffness and pain in the neck/lower back

  • Joint Damage

    Long-term, irreparable damage to joints caused by inflammation

  • Skin Patches

    Reddened skin with flaky silver-white patches in different parts of the body

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms described above, it’s important to talk with your doctor.

Where Do PsA Symptoms Typically Appear?

 

Joint Pain and Swelling

PsA causes inflammation in the joints, which can create swelling and pain. The joints can become inflamed on one or both sides of the body.

Lasting Joint Damage

PsA may cause progressive joint damage. That’s why it’s important to talk with your doctor right away.

Skin

Reddened skin with flaky silver-white patches may appear in different parts of the body, like the hairline, ears, belly button area, and buttocks.

It’s important to tell your
doctor about the symptoms
you are experiencing.

 
 

Psoriatic Arthritis vs. Rheumatoid Arthritis

The first step in discovering if you could have a chronic inflammatory condition such as psoriatic arthritis (PsA) or rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is to talk to your doctor.

Because you are an important part of your healthcare team, we've created this quick guide to help you understand the difference between PsA and RA, and spark more productive conversations between you and your rheumatologist.

 

What is your condition?

Autoimmune diseaseCLOSE Autoimmune disease: a disease that happens when a person’s immune system attacks their own body. that affects the joints, nails, spine, and skin.

Autoimmune diseaseCLOSE Autoimmune disease: a disease that happens when a person’s immune system attacks their own body. that affects the joints.

Are men or women more commonly affected?

Affects men and women equally.

Two to three times more common in women.

At what age do symptoms begin?

May develop in childhood but usually begins between the ages of 30 and 50.

May develop at any age but most often begins in middle age.

Are the joint-related symptoms symmetrical or asymmetrical?

Frequently asymmetricalCLOSE Asymmetrical: affecting only one side of the body (e.g., right hand or wrist is affected while the left hand is unaffected.), but can also be symmetricalCLOSE Symmetrical: affecting both sides of the body, such as both hands and/or wrists at the same time..

May cause a symmetrical pattern of inflammationCLOSE Symmetrical pattern of inflammation: If one joint is affected (e.g., finger or knee), it’s likely the same joint on the other side of the body will be similarly affected..

What are some common triggers that may cause a flare?

Stress or injury, especially to the joints, may cause psoriatic arthritis symptoms to worsen. Additionally, certain medications and foods may trigger a flare.

Overexertion, poor sleep, stress, or an infection can set off an RA flare.

 

What May Cause PsA?

The cause of PsA is unknown, but it’s believed to develop due to a combination of geneticCLOSE Genetic: relating to genes or heredity, material that is biologically passed down from parents. and environmental factors that trigger an abnormal autoimmune response.

Mom and daughter talking

Genetic Factors

Certain genesCLOSE Genes: genetic material that is passed on to you from your parents that determines your traits. play a role in the immune system—for some people, genetic factors may be involved in determining whether they will develop PsA.

Scientist looking into microscope

Environmental Factors

Psoriatic arthritis may be triggered by infections, injuries, extreme stress, or in people who have a genetic tendency for the disease.

When it comes to treating PsA, early diagnosis and treatment are important because this may slow disease progression and possibly reduce joint damage. So, if you think you could have symptoms of PsA, talk to your doctor.