10 Red Flags of a Psoriatic Arthritis Flare

by Julie Cerrone Croner Patient Advocate

Each of us is unique. We experience different symptoms that manifest differently in our bodies. The following are 10 red flags that might indicate you’re having a psoriatic arthritis flare. You may experience some, all, or none of these in your own experience. Always consult your rheumatologist and/or dermatologist if you believe you’re having a psoriatic arthritis flare-up.

woman on couch, wrapped in throw, in a general malaise.
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Malaise

Often when a psoriatic arthritis flare-up begins, you feel very “off.” Personally, I feel like I have the flu. I get achy all over, chills, and feel like I’m running a fever (even if I’m not). This can feel very different in each of us, but a general feeling of discomfort and uneasiness is common.

Fatigued woman at work.
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Fatigue

Sleep is when our body has the chance to heal. We’re supposed to wake up rejuvenated and rested. But psoriatic arthritis can make you feel unrested even after 12 hours of sleep. You wake up stiff and exhausted. Couple that with fatigue and even the smallest of tasks seems impossible. Walking up your steps may feel like scaling Mt. Everest and getting out of bed may seem like running a marathon. Fatigue is a common symptom of a psoriatic arthritis flare.

Psoriasis along hairline.
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Psoriasis

Given the nature of psoriatic arthritis, it’s very common for flare-ups of psoriasis to happen alongside flares of psoriatic arthritis. This will absolutely look different in everyone. Some may not experience any psoriasis, while others may be covered in pink plaques of raised skin. Personally, when I have a flare-up, I break out with psoriasis around my hairline. Whenever you have a flare-up of your psoriasis, be on guard for your psoriatic arthritis to flare, too.

Woman holding swelling elbow.
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Asymmetrical joint pain and swelling

With psoriatic arthritis, stiffness, pain and throbbing of your joints is par for the course. Typically psoriatic arthritis will present asymmetrically in your joints: one joint may flare up but not the other. For instance, my left sacroiliac (SI) joint and knee and my right wrist and elbow are most commonly affected. Each psoriatic arthritic patient will have different joints affected, so be on the lookout for which of your joints are your main culprits.

Man with lower back pain, holding low back with both hands.
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Sacroiliac joint and back pain

Psoriatic arthritis is a type of spondyloarthritis, an umbrella term for inflammatory conditions that involve the joints and the entheses, or places where the ligaments and tendons attach to the bones. With these diseases, there is often stiffness, swelling, spine pain (upper, lower, or mid-back pain), and SI joint pain. For me, my left SI joint causes me a lot of pain when I have a flare.

woman grabbing her knee, knee joint pain while sitting in park.
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Knee pain

Many patients complain of knee pain with psoriatic arthritis. Chronic inflammation of your joints and tendons can cause pain, swelling, and heat from your knee joints. In fact, my psoriatic arthritis journey started with knee problems. When I was in fifth grade, my knee swelled up and caused me numerous problems. I know that pain in my knees are a key indicator of an impending flare-up.

Woman rubbing hand, hand pain concept.
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Hand and finger pain

Tenderness, pain, and swelling in tendons can cause lots of problems within patients’ hands and forearms. Often psoriatic arthritis patients will experience “sausage digits,” where your finger will swell between the joints and around the joints. For me, when this happens, my forearms often feels like they’re on “pins and needles.”

Woman holding foot, foot pain concept.
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Feet and toe pain

You can experience “sausage digits” in your toes, as well. In addition, you can also experience feet, heel, and ankle pain. And don’t think that having your feet covered by socks and shoes protects you from a psoriasis outbreak there, too. Red, scaly skin can find its way to the soles of your feet and in between your toes.

Woman rubbing sore eyes.
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Eye problems

Many autoimmune arthritis patients will experience vision problems when they have flare-ups of their psoriatic arthritis. Blurred vision, redness and/or pain in the eyes can occur. For me, whenever I feel a flare coming on, my eyes always get red and burn.

Woman upset with fingernails.
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Nail changes

With psoriatic disease, you can have nail changes or abnormalities on both your finger and toe nails. These can be divits in the nail or psoriasis on your nails. Not everyone will experience this symptom, but it is absolutely one to be on the lookout for.

Man with jaw pain.
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Look for more symptoms

I have named a few red flags of a flare-up, but there are many others, as well. You may have joint pain in your jaw, elbow, or shoulders. You may experience digestive issues, anxiety, or any number of symptoms. It’s important to always be cognizant of your body and take the time to check in. If you can get ahead of a flare before it gets worse, you’ll be better off in the long run! Be prepared and get a game plan in place for if you run into any of these 10 red flags.

Julie Cerrone Croner
Meet Our Writer
Julie Cerrone Croner

Julie Cerrone Croner is a Certified Holistic Health Coach, Patient Empowerer, Yoga Instructor, Autoimmune Warrior and the Award Winning Blogger behind It's Just A Bad Day, NOT A Bad Life. When she’s not empowering chronically fabulous patients to live their best lives, she can be found jamming out to Celine Dion, cooking, geeking out over health-related things or enjoying life in Pittsburgh, PA with her husband and daughter.