Joint Pain? How to Know if You have Psoriatic Arthritis

by Heather Durocher Patient Expert

As many as 30 percent of people with psoriasis actually have psoriatic arthritis, a form of inflammatory arthritis. How do you know, though, if the aches and pains you're experiencing are of the normal, everyday variety or are something more serious?

I've wondered this myself, knowing psoriatic arthritis is a possibility for me. One great resource I've found is The Joint Smart Coalition, which launched earlier this year by the Arthritis Foundation and the National Psoriasis Foundation. In collaboration with pharmaceutical companies Amgen and Pfizer, the Coalition aims to provide empowering and educational resources for people with psoriatic arthritis and other related inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and plaque psoriasis.

A key component of the effort is, a website that provides resources and information for people to learn more about these diseases. The central message of the site is that people who have certain chronic inflammatory diseases should carefully monitor their joint health, and see a doctor if they experience pain, tenderness or swelling in their joints lasting more than three days, or similar symptoms that come and go several times in a month.

Signs and symptoms of psoriatic arthritis:

  • Pain, swelling, or stiffness in one or more joints

  • Joints that are red or warm to the touch

  • Frequent joint tenderness or stiffness

  • Sausage-like swelling in one or more of the fingers or toes

  • Pain in and around the feet and ankles, especially at the back of the heel or the sole of the foot

  • Changes to the nails, such as pitting or separation from the nail bed

  • Pain in the lower back, above the tailbone

Symptoms of psoriatic arthritis can be similar to other kinds of arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis. For an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment, it is important to see a specialist.

Ask your doctor for a referral to a rheumatologist, a physician with special training in arthritis and other diseases of the bone, muscles, and joints.

Many psoriasis patients are unaware they have psoriatic arthritis, but health advocates says early diagnosis and treatment can help to stop or slow the progression of permanent damage to the joints.

"Through the 'Be Joint Smart' effort we aim to educate people with chronic inflammatory forms of arthritis, like psoriatic arthritis, to seek early diagnosis and treatment to reduce the potential for progression of joint damage," says Dr. Patience White, Arthritis Foundation vice president of public health.

While 70 percent of people who develop the disease already have skin lesions, others develop the arthritis first, or develop both skin and joint symptoms at about the same time. People with a family history of either psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis are also at risk.

If you or someone in your family has psoriasis and/or you are experiencing persistent or recurring joint pain, stiffness or swelling, the Joint Smart Coalition urges you to see a doctor. You can learn more at

Heather Durocher
Meet Our Writer
Heather Durocher

Heather wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Psoriasis.