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Psoriatic arthritis

4-minute read

Key facts

  • Psoriatic arthritis is a condition that affects your joints.
  • It tends to affect people with a skin disease called psoriasis.
  • Symptoms can often be mild.
  • Treatments can relieve your symptoms and help prevent long-term joint damage.
  • There is no cure for psoriatic arthritis.

What is psoriatic arthritis?

Like other types of arthritis, psoriatic arthritis causes pain and stiffness in the joints.

It is called 'psoriatic arthritis' because it tends to affect people with psoriasis. Psoriasis is a condition that causes red, scaly patches on your skin.

About 1 in 10 people who have psoriasis get psoriatic arthritis.

If you have psoriatic arthritis, your immune system may target your joints. This causes symptoms of arthritis.

What are the symptoms of psoriatic arthritis?

If you have psoriatic arthritis, you might have:

  • pain, swelling and stiffness in one or more of your joints
  • pain and stiffness in your lower back or neck
  • pain in your tendons, such as in your feet
  • changes to your nails, such as thickening, pitting or a change in colour
  • pain or redness in your eyes

Many people find that their symptoms come and go. Sometimes they may:

  • get worse — this is called a 'flare up'
  • go away for a while — this is called 'remission'

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.

Psoriatic arthritis can affect people in different ways. In some people, it can come on slowly and cause mild symptoms. While in other people it may come on quickly and be more severe.

What causes psoriatic arthritis?

The exact cause of psoriatic arthritis isn't known.

Your genes, your immune system and environmental factors are thought to play a role in getting psoriatic arthritis.

When should I see my doctor?

See your doctor if you have pain or stiffness in one or more of your joints.

If your doctor thinks you have psoriatic arthritis, they'll refer you to a rheumatologist (a doctor who specialises in arthritis).

Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may also refer you to a dermatologist (skin specialist) or an ophthalmologist (eye specialist).

How is psoriatic arthritis diagnosed?

There isn't a specific test for psoriatic arthritis.

Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms. They will look at your skin for signs of psoriasis and examine your painful or stiff joints.

Your doctor may also order some blood tests.

How is psoriatic arthritis treated?

Some people's symptoms are so mild that they don't need medicine.

But other people may need to try a few different treatments. This lets your doctor find out what works best for you. Your treatment may also need to change over time.

The main medicines for psoriatic arthritis include the following.

Other types of treatment may be helpful, such as: physiotherapy and occupational therapy.

You can also do things to help yourself. This includes:

Complications of psoriatic arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis may affect your ability to exercise and work.

Resource and support

To learn more, see Arthritis Australia's booklet 'Taking control of your Psoriatic Arthritis'.

You can also call the healthdirect helpline on 1800 022 222 (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria). A registered nurse is ready to speak with you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: November 2022

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