Psoriatic Arthritis: Diagnosis and Treatments

Health Writer

About 15 percent of those with psoriasis will develop a condition called psoriatic arthritis according to the American College of Rheumatology. This condition affects the joints in the body, causing inflammation, tenderness and pain. It can lead to joint damage although early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent joint damage.

Early Diagnosis and Treatment

Although the majority of people with psoriasis will not develop psoriatic arthritis, it is important to know the warning signs and talk with your doctor immediately if you notice any of the symptoms. Some of the warning signs include:

  • Inflamed, swollen or tender joints, particularly in the hands, feet or the back of your leg above your heel
  • Swollen, "sausage-like" fingers and toes
  • Stiffness when you wake up that may last for hours
  • Fatigue
  • Nail pitting, crumbling or white spots under the nails
  • Limited range of motion

Your doctor may request x-rays, MRIs, ultrasounds or CT scans  to see if there is any joint damage. He may also order blood tests to rule out other types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, although a blood test alone cannot diagnose psoriatic arthritis.

Onset of Psoriatic Arthritis

Generally, psoriatic arthritis occurs between the ages of 30 and 50, somewhere between 5 and 12 years after psoriasis has appeared. However, this disease can occur in children and sometimes appears prior to the onset of psoriasis.

As with psoriasis, your immune system is partially to blame for psoriatic arthritis. It sees your joints and tendons as foreign and, in an effort to protect you, attacks them. Your genes may also impact whether or not you develop this part of the disease. Both men and women can develop psoriatic arthritis.


Because psoriatic arthritis can appear differently in each person, your doctor will tailor a treatment plan best for you. Your treatment plan may include:

Medications - There are medications available that will help stop further joint damage and lesson pain and swelling. These include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (Advil, Motrin or higher strength prescription medications), corticosteroids, methotrexate or biologics.

Exercise - While you may find it difficult to move some of your joints, exercise programs help you gain more mobility. Your doctor can help you develop a program.

Physical and occupational therapy - These types of therapies work to reduce pain and increase your mobility.

Joint protection - Braces and other supports can help protect your joints and prevent further join damage. If you need these devices, your doctor will fit you for a customized device.

In addition, it is important to learn about psoriatic arthritis so you can better manage the disease. Understanding psoriatic arthritis and your symptoms helps you know when a flare-up occurs so you can take precautions, such as resting your joints or using braces to help protect your joints. Some people also say that certain foods or activities can trigger a flare-up. Keeping a journal may help you understand your triggers so you can avoid them in the future.


"Psoriatic Arthritis," Reviewed 2013, Oct. 2, Staff Writer,

"Psoriatic Arthritis," Updated 2012, Sept., Paul Emery M.D. and Zoe Ash, M.D., American College of Rheumatology

"Psoriatic Arthritis," Date Unknown, Staff Writer, American Academy of Dermatology