Most people experience problems with their skin first and then, years later, notice joint issues, notes the American Academy of Dermatology. (2)
The severity of symptoms varies a lot. Some people have mild symptoms, while others experience debilitating pain that affects their daily lives. Symptoms may be constant, or they may come and go.
It’s important to recognize the signs of psoriatic arthritis, because starting on treatment earlier may lessen the risk of joint damage, according to the American Arthritis Foundation. (3)
Common PsA Signs and Symptoms
Some common symptoms of psoriatic arthritis include:
Painful, Swollen Joints
You may experience joint pain, achiness, or swelling on one or both sides of your body, notes Mayo Clinic. (4) Any joint can be affected, but psoriatic arthritis commonly impacts the large joints in the lower extremities, such as your knees or ankles. The pain may be worse in the morning or after you’ve rested. (1)
Stiff joints may make moving or bending difficult. This stiffness is usually worse in the morning or after you’ve been still awhile, according to the Arthritis Foundation. (5)
Swollen Fingers or Toes
Many people with psoriatic arthritis experience a symptom known as dactylitis — “sausage-like” swelling of the fingers or toes. This sign can help doctors tell the difference between psoriatic arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. (5)
Skin rashes usually appear as red patches with silvery scales, which are called plaques. They can show up anywhere on the body but are common on the scalp, elbows, knees, or around the ears. The rash may itch and burn. (1,5)
With psoriatic arthritis, fingernails and toenails may become pitted, flaky, or look infected. Sometimes they can even lift from the nail bed. (5)
Heel, Foot, or Elbow Pain
Enthesitis, which is characterized by pain where tendons or ligaments attach to bones, is common in people with psoriatic arthritis. The discomfort usually occurs at the heel, bottom of the foot, or in the elbow. (5)
Sometimes, psoriatic arthritis can cause inflammation of the eyes that leads to irritation, redness, and vision problems. (5)
Reduced Range of Motion
The pain and stiffness associated with psoriatic arthritis can affect your range of motion. You may not be able to move your joints and limbs easily. (5)
Lower Back Pain
Some people with psoriatic arthritis develop spondylitis?— a condition that causes inflammation in your spine or pelvis. This can lead to back pain and stiffness. (4)
If psoriatic arthritis destroys the joints, it can cause permanent disfigurement. Getting early treatment can help prevent this type of damage. (2)
Does Psoriatic Arthritis Cause Fatigue?
Fatigue is a common complaint among people with psoriatic arthritis. In fact, some studies reveal that as many as half of those with the disease have moderate-to-severe fatigue, and nearly 30 percent report severe fatigue, notes the National Psoriasis Foundation. (6)
Doctors believe proteins called cytokines, which are released when the body undergoes an inflammatory change, may be to blame for the exhaustion. (6)
Can Psoriatic Arthritis Cause Muscle Pain?
Psoriatic arthritis pain may limit your activity level. This can lead to muscle weakness, which can make your symptoms worse, notes Cedars-Sinai. (7)
Additionally, people with psoriatic arthritis have a higher risk of developing fibromyalgia?— a condition that causes a variety of symptoms, including muscle aches and pains, according to past research.?(8)
It’s important to keep your muscles strong by exercising regularly.
Can Psoriatic Arthritis Cause Weight Gain?
The exact relationship between psoriatic arthritis and weight gain is still being investigated.
Doctors do know that people who experience pain from the condition don’t always exercise the way?they should. This could lead to weight gain. (7)
Additionally, studies reveal obesity is a risk factor for developing psoriatic arthritis, and negatively impacts response to medication treatment, notes the Arthritis Foundation. (9)
Carrying around extra weight puts pressure on your joints. People with psoriatic arthritis who are overweight tend to have more severe symptoms and a harder time controlling their disease; they face?an increased risk of heart disease, according to a review published in September 2020 in Rheumatology and Therapy. (10)
Maintaining a healthy weight could ease your pain and improve your overall health.
What Are Flares?
Flares are periods of time when psoriatic arthritis symptoms intensify or worsen. Some people have frequent flares, while others report only occasional exacerbations. (5)
If flares become severe, your doctor can adjust your medication.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, certain triggers that may bring on a flare include:?(11)
- Weather changes
- Alcohol or smoking
- Foods that cause inflammation
- Skipping or stopping medications
- An illness or injury
Coping With Symptoms of Psoriatic Arthritis
Psoriatic arthritis symptoms can take a toll on your daily life. Here are some strategies to help you cope.
- Find the right doctor.?Look for a rheumatologist who specializes in treating autoimmune diseases like psoriatic arthritis. Be sure to find a doctor who makes you feel comfortable.
- Exercise.?Regular physical activity can improve your quality of life. Walking, cycling, swimming, and yoga are some low-impact exercises that are ideal for people with joint problems.
- Eat a healthy diet.?Avoid foods that may have triggered a flare in the past. Consume lots of fruits, veggies, and lean proteins.
- Get enough rest.?While you should exercise, resting your joints is also important. Listen to your body, and don’t overdo it when it comes to physical activity. Also, make sure you get enough sleep at night to help combat the fatigue you may feel during the day.
- Track your flares.?Keep a daily journal that tracks food, sleep patterns, activity, and stress levels, to help you pinpoint what could be triggering your flares.
- Don’t stop taking your medicine.?Keep taking all prescribed drugs, unless your doctor tells you otherwise. Stopping treatment can cause symptoms to worsen.
- Connect with others.?Joining an in-person or online support group is a great way to connect with other individuals who have your disease. The National Psoriasis Foundation’s TalkPsoriasis is the world’s largest online support community for people with psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis. (4,11,12)
Resources We Love
Favorite Orgs for Essential Psoriatic Arthritis Info
The Arthritis Foundation provides credible information and resources for those battling psoriatic arthritis. Their site offers opportunities for advocacy and community outreach. We like that you can get personalized exercise advice based on your condition and fitness level.
This organization’s site is chock-full of information about psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. You can request a free electronic psoriatic arthritis kit, which includes a flare tracker to help you manage your disease and pinpoint triggers. Their Navigation Center also offers free and personalized assistance for patients, families, and caregivers.
This long-standing professional membership organization provides breaking news about the latest advances in psoriatic arthritis and other rheumatic conditions. The American College of Rheumatology serves more than 8,400 physicians, health professionals, and scientists worldwide. Their Find a Rheumatologist link lets you locate a doctor who specializes in your condition.
The Spondylitis Association of America offers resources for those with spondyloarthritis and related diseases, like psoriatic arthritis. From message boards to support groups, this organization has you covered.
With more than 20,500 members, the American Academy of Dermatology is the largest, most influential dermatology group in the United States. The organization focuses on education and advocacy for a wide range of conditions that affect the skin, including psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.
CreakyJoints is a digital community for arthritis patients and their caregivers. They offer education, support, advocacy, and patient-centered research resources for people with all types of arthritis.
Favorite Psoriatic Arthritis Online Support Networks
TalkPsoriasis is the world’s largest online support community for people impacted by psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis. Sponsored by the National Psoriasis Foundation in partnership with Inspire, this resource lets patients connect, exchange information, and make friends.
The Live Yes! Arthritis Network, sponsored by the Arthritis Foundation, connects you with local, peer-led support groups. You can also exchange tips, ideas, and experiences with other people in the online forums.
Favorite Annual Psoriatic Arthritis Patient Conference
Each year, the National Psoriasis Foundation hosts a symposium that showcases the latest research. Attending a conference can help you connect with other patients and leading scientists who are studying cutting-edge treatments for your condition.
Favorite Apps for Psoriatic Arthritis
This app, developed by the Arthritis Foundation, allows you to track your symptoms, input your daily activities, and make charts that you can share with your doctor.
Flaredown is designed to help you identify what triggers your psoriatic arthritis flare-ups. You can keep track of symptoms, medications, activities, diet, and weather conditions.
Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking
- Psoriatic Arthritis Symptoms You Can’t Afford to Ignore. CreakyJoints. November 21, 2018.
- Psoriatic Arthritis: Signs and Symptoms. American Academy of Dermatology.
- What Is Psoriatic Arthritis? Arthritis Foundation.
- Psoriatic?Arthritis. Mayo Clinic. September 21, 2019.
- Psoriatic Arthritis Symptoms. Arthritis Foundation.
- Fatigue and Psoriatic?Arthritis. National Psoriasis Foundation. December 21, 2015.
- Psoriatic Arthritis. Cedars-Sinai.
- Magrey?MN, Antonelli M, James N, Khan MA. High Frequency of Fibromyalgia in Patients With Psoriatic Arthritis: A Pilot Study. Arthritis. 2013.
- How Fat Affects PsA. Arthritis Foundation.
- Kumthekar A, Ogdie A. Obesity and Psoriatic Arthritis: A Narrative Review.?Rheumatology and Therapy. September 2020.
- Managing Psoriatic Arthritis Flares. Arthritis Foundation.
- Psoriatic Arthritis. American College of Rheumatology. March 2019.