Psoriatic arthritis accompanies the skin disease psoriasis—characterized by red patches of skin topped with silvery scales—which is often present before the onset of arthritis. Approximately 20 percent of people with psoriatic arthritis have it in their spine.
Key symptoms include joint pain, stiffness, and swelling. In both psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, disease flares may alternate with periods of remission, and since there is no cure for either, your doctor will focus on controlling symptoms and preventing joint damage. Left untreated, psoriatic arthritis may be disabling.
According to the American College of Rheumatology, psoriatic arthritis typically appears in people between the ages of 30 to 50 but can begin in childhood. The risk factor is equal for men and women. Children with psoriatic arthritis are at added risk to develop uveitis (inflammation of the middle layer of the eye).
In the spine, psoriatic arthritis is called spondylitis causes stiffness in the back or neck, and difficulty bending.
Since psoriatic arthritis is a chronic disease, you may have periods of improved symptoms or none at all, followed by periods of worsening symptoms.
Psoriatic arthritis commonly causes:
- Swollen fingers and toes
- Tender, painful, or swollen joints
- Red scaly skin patches are known as plaques
- Reduced range of motion of the joints
- Morning stiffness
- Lower back, upper back, and neck pain
- General fatigue
- Changes to nails, such as pitting or separation from the nail bed
When to See a Doctor
If you have psoriasis, inform your doctor of any existing joint pain. He may then recommend that you speak to a rheumatologist—a doctor who specializes in diseases of the joints, tissue, and bones— further diagnosis.