Psoriatic arthritis is a form of inflammatory arthritis that affects some people who have psoriasis — a condition that features red patches of skin topped with silvery scales. Most people develop psoriasis first and are later diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis, but the joint problems can sometimes begin before skin patches appear.
Joint pain, stiffness and swelling are the main signs and symptoms of psoriatic arthritis. They can affect any part of your body, including your fingertips and spine, and can range from relatively mild to severe. In both psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, disease flares may alternate with periods of remission.
No cure for psoriatic arthritis exists, so the focus is on controlling symptoms and preventing damage to your joints. Without treatment, psoriatic arthritis may be disabling.
Symptoms Psoriatic Arthritis
Both psoriatic arthritis and psoriasis are chronic diseases that get worse over time, but you may have periods when your symptoms improve or go into remission alternating with times when symptoms become worse.
Psoriatic arthritis can affect joints on just one side or on both sides of your body. The signs and symptoms of psoriatic arthritis often resemble those of rheumatoid arthritis.
- Swollen fingers and toes. Psoriatic arthritis can cause a painful, sausage-like swelling of your fingers and toes.
- Tendonitis Psoriatic arthritis can also cause pain at the points where tendons and ligaments attach to your bones — especially at the back of your heel (Achilles tendinitis) or in the sole of your foot (plantar fasciitis).
- Lower back pain. Some people develop a condition called spondylitis as a result of psoriatic arthritis. Spondylitis mainly causes inflammation of the joints between the vertebrae of your spine and in the joints between your spine and pelvis (sacroiliitis).
Diagnosis for Psoriatic Arthritis
During the exam, your doctor may:
- Closely examine your joints for signs of swelling or tenderness
- Check your fingernails for pitting, flaking and other abnormalities
- Press on the soles of your feet and around your heels to find tender areas
No single test can confirm a diagnosis of psoriatic arthritis. But some types of tests can rule out other causes of joint pain, such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout.
Imaging tests for Psoriatic Arthritis
- X-rays. Plain X-rays can help pinpoint changes in the joints that occur in psoriatic arthritis but not in other arthritic conditions.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). MRI uses radio waves and a strong magnetic field to produce very detailed images of both hard and soft tissues in your body. This type of imaging test may be used to check for problems with the tendons and ligaments in your feet and lower back.