A person with aching hands

Psoriatic Arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is an inflammatory form of arthritis integrally linked to the autoimmune disease psoriasis. Symptoms include: 

  • Joint pain and stiffness 
  • Swelling of the fingers and toes 
  • Skin lesions
  • Nail deformity
  • Back pain 

Psoriatic arthritis can develop in people who don’t have a history of psoriasis, but it’s preceded by psoriasis around 85% of the time.

The causes of PsA are poorly understood, but genetics and environmental factors are believed to be at the root of the condition. Treatment focuses primarily on alleviating inflammation with either oral or injected medications. Surgery is rarely needed.

Psoriatic arthritis affects up to 1% of the U.S. population, affecting men and women equally. It’s typically diagnosed between ages 30 and 50, but it can occur at any age.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the first signs of psoriatic arthritis?

    Most of the time, psoriasis is the first symptom of psoriatic arthritis. It causes silvery-white skin lesions called plaques, which may appear on your scalp, elbows, knees, and lower back. Eventually, pain and stiffness develop as inflammation spreads from the skin to the joints and/or connective tissues.

  • What are the 5 types of psoriatic arthritis?

    Psoriatic arthritis is broadly divided into two groups- axial, which involves the spine and hips, and non-axial, which involves the peripheral joints.

    It can be further classified into 5 types:

    • Asymmetric oligoarticular: Affects two to three joints on one side
    • Symmetric polyarthritis: Affects more than four joints on both sides
    • Distal interphalangeal predominant (DIP): Involves the joint closest to the tips of fingers or toes
    • Psoriatic spondylitis: Involves inflammation and pain in the spinal column
    • Arthritis Mutilans: A severe form of erosive arthritis leading to bone loss and deformity
  • What foods trigger psoriatic arthritis?

    While no diet is shown to cure PsA, inflammatory foods may exacerbate symptoms. They include:

    • Red meat
    • Dairy
    • High-fructose corn syrup
    • Refined sugar
    • Refined carbs (white bread, white rice)
    • Trans fat

    An anti-inflammatory diet emphasizes whole grains, oily fish, dark green leafy vegetables, and fruits.

  • What does psoriatic arthritis look like?

    Psoriasis causes patches of red, rough skin with silvery scales. They’re most often around the joints of elbows, knees, hands, and feet. The skin surrounding the joint may develop blisters and appear cracked. On the scalp, it may look like dandruff.

Key Terms

How Psoriatic Arthritis Affects the Body

Explore interactive models that take a closer look at the effects of psoriatic arthritis throughout the body, and how the condition can progress both internally and externally.

woman in pain rubbing neck
Why Psoriatic Arthritis and Depression Occur Together
woman stretching fingers back
Exercises for Psoriatic Arthritis: Benefits and Tips to Get Started
The hands of a male with psoriatic arthritis
Managing Morning Stiffness From PsA: What Works Best
Immune System and Psoriatic Disease
Have Psoriatic Arthritis? Here’s Your Cancer Risk
MS patient
Psoriatic Arthritis vs. Multiple Sclerosis
SLE Lupus
What To Know About Psoriatic Arthritis vs. Lupus
Gout
Psoriatic Arthritis vs. Gout
Woman with hand pain
PsA and Menopause: Joint Pain, Hormones, and Flare-Ups
Arthritic hands
Caring for Symptoms of PsA
Arthritic hands
What Is Psoriatic Arthritis Mutilans?
doctor checks spinal x-ray
Psoriatic Arthritis vs. Ankylosing Spondylitis
Low back and hip pain and stiffness experienced by woman getting out of bed
Psoriatic Arthritis vs. Sacroiliitis
Joint pain
What To Know About Psoriatic Arthritis vs. Rheumatoid Arthritis
Myalgia
What to Know About Psoriatic Arthritis vs. Fibromyalgia
psoriatic arthritis damage in the hands
Psoriatic Arthritis and Bone Erosion
Scaly psoriasis patches are present on a woman's knee and elbow.
Is a Cure for Psoriatic Arthritis on the Way?
Imaging in PsA
What to Know About Radiology and Its Use in Psoriatic Arthritis
MRI digital x-ray of brain with team radiologist doctor oncology working together in clinic hospital. Medical healthcare concept.
Psoriatic Arthritis vs. Multiple Sclerosis: What's the Difference?
Psoriatic Arthritis Disability
What Does Psoriatic Arthritis Look Like?
fasting
What You Need to Know About Fasting If You Have Psoriatic Arthritis
vitamin C
Does Vitamin C Help Psoriatic Arthritis?
woman administering injection to abdomen
An Overview of Psoriatic Arthritis Treatment Injections
human kidneys illustration
The Association Between Psoriatic Arthritis and Kidney Disease
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Everything You Need to Know About Psoriatic Arthritis Surgery
Young Asian woman with hand on forehead lying in bed and feeling sick
Is There a Link Between Psoriatic Arthritis and Migraines?
woman suffering from low back pain
What You Need to Know About Psoriatic Arthritis and Back Pain
Close up of a doctor having an appointment with a patient with leg pain
Reactive Arthritis vs Psoriatic Arthritis: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment
Man holding his left knee in pain
Left Side Joint Pain: Common Causes, Exacerbating Factors
Man on running path stopped holding knee
How to Manage Psoriatic Arthritis Pain
Swollen finger beside other finger
Dactylitis With Psoriatic Arthritis: Causes & More
Applying adhesive bandage after taking sample for blood test
Psoriatic Arthritis Blood Test: Types, How to Prepare
Closeup of a White person's hands with spots of psoriasis; they are squeezing a tube of white cream onto their finger
Psoriatic Arthritis Statistics
Closeup of a white person's hands, they are scratching one hand which is reddened.
Psoriatic Arthritis and the Flu
Diverse group
Ethnic Disparities: How Race Impacts Psoriatic Arthritis
Plasma Donation
What to Know About Plasma Donation with Psoriatic Arthritis
Tired young woman
What You Need to Know About Psoriatic Arthritis and Pernicious Anemia
hand x-rays
What to Know About Pencil-in-Cup Deformity
A person pouring a drop of oil from a brown bottle into their open palm.
How Does CBD Oil Work for Psoriatic Arthritis?
Psoriatic Disease
What To Know About Symmetric Psoriatic Arthritis
Vertigo / Inner Ear
What to Know About Vertigo and Dizziness in Psoriatic Arthritis
Psoriatic arthritis and pregnancy
What to Know About Psoriatic Arthritis and Pregnancy
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Everything To Know About Biologics for Psoriatic Arthritis
Doctor examining patient's lungs
How Psoriatic Arthritis Can Affect Your Breathing
woman wearing mask getting vaccine
Psoriatic Arthritis and COVID-19: Risks, Complications, Considerations
Person wearing a mask at work
Managing Psoriatic Arthritis During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Foot Pain
Everything to Know About How Psoriatic Arthritis Affects the Feet
Psoriatic arthritis of the knee
Everything to Know About Psoriatic Arthritis of the Knee
Dual Practice Clinic
What Are Combined Dermatology-Rheumatology Clinics?
Video call with doctor
Telehealth for Psoriatic Arthritis During COVID-19
Psoriatic Arthritis Prognosis and Quality of Life
What You Need to Know About Comorbidities in Psoriatic Arthritis
Psoriatic Arthritis Disability
What You Need to Know About Disability for Psoriatic Arthritis
Elderly woman swollen feet putting on shoes
How Does Psoriatic Arthritis Affect Body Systems?
Nurse checking mans hand joints
How Does Psoriatic Arthritis Affect the Hands?
Psoriatic Arthritis Prognosis and Quality of Life
How Does Psoriatic Arthritis Affect Quality of Life?
Fatigue and Psoriatic Arthritis
Managing Fatigue and Energy with Psoriatic Arthritis
PsA Remission
What Is Psoriatic Arthritis Remission and Is It Possible?
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What Are Your Over-the-Counter Options for Psoriatic Arthritis?
Practice
When Is it Time to Add a Biologic to Your PsA Treatment Plan?
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How Common Is Psoriatic Arthritis in Psoriasis Patients?
JAK Inhibitors
What You Need to Know about Treating Psoriatic Arthritis With JAK Inhibitors
Page Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Veale DJ, Ritchlin C, Fitzgerald O. Immunopathology of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. Ann Rheum Dis. 2005;64 Suppl 2:ii26-9. doi:10.1136/ard.2004.031740

  2. Merola JF, Espinoza LR, Fleischmann R. Distinguishing rheumatoid arthritis from psoriatic arthritis. RMD Open. 2018;4(2):e000656. doi:10.1136/rmdopen-2018-000656

  3. Liu JT, Yeh HM, Liu SY, Chen KT. Psoriatic arthritis: Epidemiology, diagnosis, and treatment. World J Orthop. 2014;5(4):537–543. doi:10.5312/wjo.v5.i4.537

  4. Cleveland Clinic Center for Continuing Education. Psoriatic Arthritis. Updated October 2016.