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Psoriatic arthritis

Arthritis - psoriatic; Psoriasis - psoriatic arthritis; Spondyloarthritis - psoriatic arthritis; PsA

Psoriatic arthritis is a joint problem (arthritis) that often occurs with a skin condition called psoriasis.

Causes

Psoriasis is a common skin problem that causes red patches on the skin. It is an ongoing (chronic) inflammatory condition. Psoriatic arthritis occurs in about 7% to 42% of people with psoriasis. Nail psoriasis is linked to psoriatic arthritis.

In most cases, psoriasis comes before the arthritis. In a few people, the arthritis comes before the skin disease. However, having severe, wide-spread psoriasis appears to increase the chance of getting psoriatic arthritis.

The cause of psoriatic arthritis is not known. Genes, immune system, and environmental factors may play a role. It is likely that the skin and joint diseases may have similar causes. However, they may not occur together.

Symptoms

The arthritis may be mild and involve only a few joints. The joints at the end of the fingers or toes may be more affected. Psoriatic arthritis is most often uneven causing arthritis only on one side of the body.

In some people, the disease may be severe and affect many joints, including the spine. Symptoms in the spine include stiffness and pain. They most often occur in the lower spine and sacrum.

Some people with psoriatic arthritis may have inflammation of the eyes.

Most of the time, people with psoriatic arthritis have the skin and nail changes of psoriasis. Often, the skin gets worse at the same time as the arthritis.

Tendons may become inflamed with psoriatic arthritis. Examples include the Achilles tendon, the plantar fascia, and the tendon sheath in the hand.

Exams and Tests

During a physical exam, the health care provider will look for:

  • Joint swelling
  • Skin patches (psoriasis) and pitting in the nails
  • Tenderness
  • Inflammation in the eyes

Joint x-rays may be done.

There are no specific blood tests for psoriatic arthritis or for psoriasis. Tests to rule out other types of arthritis may be done:

The provider may test for a gene called HLA-B27 People with involvement of the back are more likely to have HLA-B27.

Treatment

Your provider may give nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce pain and swelling of the joints.

Arthritis that does not improve with NSAIDs will need to be treated with medicines called disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs). These include:

  • Methotrexate
  • Leflunomide
  • Sulfasalazine

Apremilast is another medicine used for the treatment of psoriatic arthritis.

New biologic medicines are effective for progressive psoriatic arthritis that is not controlled with DMARDs. These medicines block a protein called tumor necrosis factor (TNF). They are often helpful for both the skin disease and the joint disease of psoriatic arthritis. These medicines are given by injection.

Other new biologic medicines are available to treat psoriatic arthritis that is progressing even with the use of DMARDs or anti-TNF agents. These medicines are also given by injection.

Very painful joints may be treated with steroid injections. These are used when only one or a few joints are involved. Most experts do not recommend oral corticosteroids for psoriatic arthritis. Their use may worsen psoriasis and interfere with the effect of other drugs.

In rare cases, surgery may be needed to repair or replace damaged joints.

People with inflammation of the eye should see an ophthalmologist.

Your provider may suggest a mix of rest and exercise. Physical therapy may help increase joint movement. You may also use heat and cold therapy.

Outlook (Prognosis)

The disease is sometimes mild and affects only a few joints. However, in many people with psoriatic arthritis damage to joints occurs within the first several years. In some people, very bad arthritis may cause deformities in the hands, feet, and spine.

Most people with psoriatic arthritis who do not improve with NSAIDs should see a rheumatologist, a specialist in arthritis, along with a dermatologist for the psoriasis.

Early treatment can ease pain and prevent joint damage, even in very bad cases.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider if you develop symptoms of arthritis along with psoriasis.

References

Bruce IN, Ho PYP. Clinical features of psoriatic arthritis. In: Hochberg MC, Gravallese EM, Silman AJ, Smolen JS, Weinblatt ME, Weisman MH, eds. Rheumatology. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 128.

FitzGerald O, Elmamoun M. Psoriatic arthritis. In: Firestein GS, Budd RC, Gabriel SE, McInnes IB, O'Dell JR, eds. Kelley and Firestein's Textbook of Rheumatology. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2017:chap 77.

Smolen JS, Schöls M, Braun J, et al. Treating axial spondyloarthritis and peripheral spondyloarthritis, especially psoriatic arthritis, to target: 2017 update of recommendations by an international task force. Ann Rheum Dis. 2018;77(1):3-17. PMID: 28684559 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28684559.

Veale DJ, Orr C. Management of psoriatic arthritis. In: Hochberg MC, Gravallese EM, Silman AJ, Smolen JS, Weinblatt ME, Weisman MH, eds. Rheumatology. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 131.

    • Psoriasis

      Animation

    •  

      Psoriasis - Animation

      Psoriasis is a common skin condition that causes skin redness and irritation. Most people with psoriasis have thick, red skin with flaky, silver-white patches called scales. Psoriasis may affect you at any age, but it usually begins between the ages of 15 and 35. You can't spread this disorder to others, but it does seem to be passed down through families. We think it probably occurs when your immune system mistakes healthy cells for dangerous substances. Skin cells grow deep in your skin, normally rising to the surface about once a month. But, in people with psoriasis, this process occurs too fast, usually happening in only about 2 weeks, and dead skin cells build up on your skin's surface. Many factors can trigger psoriasis, or make it more difficult to treat, including bacterial or viral infections, dry air or skin, injuries to your skin, some medications, stress, too much or too little sunlight, and even too much alcohol. In general, psoriasis may be very bad in people who have a weakened immune system. Psoriasis can appear suddenly or it can appear slowly. Often, it goes away and then flares up again, time after time. If you have psoriasis, you'll probably have irritated patches of skin on your body, often on your elbows and knees. But it can show up anywhere on your body, even your scalp. The skin patches may be itchy, dry and covered with silver, flaky scales. They may be pink in color and raised and thick. So, what do you do about psoriasis? Well, your doctor will need to look at your skin to make a diagnosis. Sometimes the doctor will take a skin sample, or a biopsy, to rule out other possible problems. Your treatment will focus on controlling your symptoms and preventing infections. In general, you have three options topical medications like lotions or creams, pills or injections that affect your whole body, and therapy that uses light to treat psoriasis. But most people tend to use creams or ointments they place directly on their skin. Psoriasis is a life-long condition you can control with treatment. It may go away for a long time and then suddenly return. Fortunately, with the right treatment, it usually does not affect your general physical health.

    • Psoriasis - guttate on the arms and chest

      Psoriasis - guttate on the arms and chest - illustration

      This is a picture of guttate (drop-shaped) psoriasis on the arms and chest. Guttate psoriasis is a rare form of psoriasis. It frequently follows a streptococcal infection, appears rapidly and affects the face, chest, and nearest limbs. The patches are small and round or oval and have the typical appearance of psoriasis. This photograph shows the diffuse and widespread coverage on the arm and chest.

      Psoriasis - guttate on the arms and chest

      illustration

    • Psoriasis - guttate on the cheek

      Psoriasis - guttate on the cheek - illustration

      This is a picture of guttate (drop-shaped) psoriasis on face and neck. Guttate psoriasis is a rare form of psoriasis. It frequently follows a streptococcal infection, appears rapidly and affects the face, chest, and nearest limbs. The patches are small and round or oval and have the typical appearance of psoriasis. This photograph shows the diffuse and widespread coverage on the face and neck.

      Psoriasis - guttate on the cheek

      illustration

    • Psoriasis

      Animation

    •  

      Psoriasis - Animation

      Psoriasis is a common skin condition that causes skin redness and irritation. Most people with psoriasis have thick, red skin with flaky, silver-white patches called scales. Psoriasis may affect you at any age, but it usually begins between the ages of 15 and 35. You can't spread this disorder to others, but it does seem to be passed down through families. We think it probably occurs when your immune system mistakes healthy cells for dangerous substances. Skin cells grow deep in your skin, normally rising to the surface about once a month. But, in people with psoriasis, this process occurs too fast, usually happening in only about 2 weeks, and dead skin cells build up on your skin's surface. Many factors can trigger psoriasis, or make it more difficult to treat, including bacterial or viral infections, dry air or skin, injuries to your skin, some medications, stress, too much or too little sunlight, and even too much alcohol. In general, psoriasis may be very bad in people who have a weakened immune system. Psoriasis can appear suddenly or it can appear slowly. Often, it goes away and then flares up again, time after time. If you have psoriasis, you'll probably have irritated patches of skin on your body, often on your elbows and knees. But it can show up anywhere on your body, even your scalp. The skin patches may be itchy, dry and covered with silver, flaky scales. They may be pink in color and raised and thick. So, what do you do about psoriasis? Well, your doctor will need to look at your skin to make a diagnosis. Sometimes the doctor will take a skin sample, or a biopsy, to rule out other possible problems. Your treatment will focus on controlling your symptoms and preventing infections. In general, you have three options topical medications like lotions or creams, pills or injections that affect your whole body, and therapy that uses light to treat psoriasis. But most people tend to use creams or ointments they place directly on their skin. Psoriasis is a life-long condition you can control with treatment. It may go away for a long time and then suddenly return. Fortunately, with the right treatment, it usually does not affect your general physical health.

    • Psoriasis - guttate on the arms and chest

      Psoriasis - guttate on the arms and chest - illustration

      This is a picture of guttate (drop-shaped) psoriasis on the arms and chest. Guttate psoriasis is a rare form of psoriasis. It frequently follows a streptococcal infection, appears rapidly and affects the face, chest, and nearest limbs. The patches are small and round or oval and have the typical appearance of psoriasis. This photograph shows the diffuse and widespread coverage on the arm and chest.

      Psoriasis - guttate on the arms and chest

      illustration

    • Psoriasis - guttate on the cheek

      Psoriasis - guttate on the cheek - illustration

      This is a picture of guttate (drop-shaped) psoriasis on face and neck. Guttate psoriasis is a rare form of psoriasis. It frequently follows a streptococcal infection, appears rapidly and affects the face, chest, and nearest limbs. The patches are small and round or oval and have the typical appearance of psoriasis. This photograph shows the diffuse and widespread coverage on the face and neck.

      Psoriasis - guttate on the cheek

      illustration

    Tests for Psoriatic arthritis

     

    Review Date: 1/29/2018

    Reviewed By: Gordon A. Starkebaum, MD, ABIM Board Certified in Rheumatology, Seattle, WA. Internal review and update on 03/28/2019 by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

    The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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