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What is Psoriatic Arthritis?

Psoriatic arthritis is a condition that causes pain and swelling in joints, scaly patches on the skin and problems with fingernails and toenails. Psoriatic arthritis is related to psoriasis, a chronic (long-lasting) skin condition. Not everyone who has psoriasis develops psoriatic arthritis.

Psoriasis is a condition noted for its scaly, itchy skin rash. This rash most commonly appears on the elbows, knees and scalp.

Psoriatic arthritis affects both men and women. It usually develops between the ages of 20 and 50.

Symptoms & Diagnosis

Common symptoms of psoriatic arthritis include:

  • Pain and swelling in one or more joints, usually the wrists, knees, ankles and/or joints at the ends of the fingers or toes
  • Swelling of fingers and/or toes that gives them a sausage-like appearance
  • Pain in the low back or buttocks
  • Silver or gray scaly spots on the scalp, elbows, knees and/or the lower end of the backbone
  • Pitting, small depressions (pits) and/or “lifting” or detachment of fingernails and/or toenails

Some people with psoriatic arthritis also have neck and/or back pain and stiffness. This can limit movement.

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and perform a physical exam. As part of the exam, he or she will look at your skin and fingernails and see if your joints are tender or swollen. Your doctor will also check for pain on movement of joints, or limitations in joint movement.

Tests your doctor may order include:

  • X-rays to look for changes in your bones and joints
  • Blood tests to rule out other diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
  • Joint fluid tests to rule out gout or infectious arthritis

The goal of treatment for psoriatic arthritis is to reduce joint pain and swelling, control skin rashes and scaly patches, and slow down or prevent joint damage.

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