What is psoriatic arthritis?
Psoriatic arthritis is an inflammatory joint disease associated with psoriasis. Like all arthritis, psoriatic arthritis can cause stiffness, pain and lack of movement in affected areas. It most commonly affects the joints in the hands and feet, but can also cause inflammation, swelling and pain in larger joints, including the knees, elbows, hips and the spine.
The inflammation in psoriatic arthritis can also affect the tendons (the fibrous tissue that attaches the muscle to the bone).
Symptoms of psoriatic arthritis range from mild to severe and can wax and wane in a similar way to skin psoriasis. Psoriatic arthritis usually affects the joints that are closest to the nail (distal joints) in both the fingers and the toes. The lower back, wrists, knees and ankles, alongside the neck, shoulders and elbows may also be affected. There are five subgroups of psoriatic arthritis, although there is some overlap between the groups.
Psoriasis is a common skin condition affecting 2-3% of the population of the UK and Ireland. An estimated 5-7% of people with psoriasis have psoriatic arthritis. This figure can increase to approximately 40% in people who have severe psoriasis.
Men and women are equally likely to develop psoriatic arthritis with the peak onset being between the ages of 30 and 50 years (however psoriatic arthritis can occur at any age).
In most cases (70%) psoriasis precedes psoriatic arthritis, in 15% of cases the skin and joint conditions occur at the same time and in the remaining 15% psoriatic arthritis is present before the skin condition psoriasis appears.
There is no specific test for psoriatic arthritis. Diagnosis is made by looking for a history of psoriasis in you or your family, together with arthritis and inflammation in at least one joint. The pattern of the disease is also assessed to see if your symptoms fall into one of the subsets of psoriatic arthritis.
It is worth noting that people with psoriasis can also develop other forms of arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
Organisations who can help
Arthritis Care exists to support people with all forms of arthritis. They are the UK’s largest charity working with and for all people who have arthritis. Arthritis Care campaigns for change and offers practical support and information so that people can learn to take control of their arthritis and make positive changes to their lives.
Helpline: 0808 800 4050 General enquiries: 020 7380 6500
Arthritis Research UK
The Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis Alliance
The Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis Alliance is a UK registered charity dedicated to helping people affected by psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.
Phone: 01923 672 837
The Psoriasis Association
The Psoriasis Association is the leading national membership organisation for people affected by psoriasis – patients, families, carers and health professionals.
Phone: 08456 760 076