Psoriatic arthritis is an autoimmune disease, which means the body’s immune system turns on itself, in this case leading to inflammation of the joints. Most people who develop this type of arthritis also have the skin condition psoriasis, another autoimmune disease which causes raised red patches on the skin. More than 7 million people in the United States have psoriasis, and 30% of them may eventually develop psoriatic arthritis. Usually, people develop psoriasis before psoriatic arthritis, but some people may get the arthritis symptoms first.
Experts don’t know exactly what causes psoriatic arthritis, but many believe it’s likely a combination of a person’s genetics and environment. Most people develop symptoms for the first time when they’re between 30 and 50 years old, and both men and women can have the condition. Psoriatic arthritis is chronic and progressive, but medications and lifestyle changes may help.
Signs and symptoms of psoriatic arthritis
Many psoriatic arthritis symptoms closely resemble other types of arthritis, including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. This is why psoriatic arthritis can be so difficult to diagnose. Symptoms can vary from person to person, but usually include painful, swollen, stiff joints. The joints may also be red or warm. Symptoms can come on suddenly or slowly, and be mild or severe. Many people have flares of psoriatic arthritis symptoms, followed by times of relative calm.
Psoriatic arthritis can affect different joints in the body. The small joints in the fingers and toes are often affected and may develop dactylitis, when the fingers and toes swell up. Many people also have pain in the lower back and the foot, such as the back of the heel. People who experience stiff joints often report that their symptoms are usually worse in the morning.