What is psoriatic arthritis?

Psoriatic arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease that occurs when your immune system mistakenly starts attacking healthy joints and skin

The symptoms of psoriatic arthritis

Red, flaky skin patches

Psoriasis symptoms usually come first. Red, scaly patches, known as plaques, most commonly appear on the scalp, elbows, or knees.

Joint pain and damage

You can feel joint tenderness, swelling, and stiffness in your lower back, fingers, knees, ankles or toes. And over time, if left untreated, psoriatic arthritis can cause permanent joint damage.

Some people have psoriasis symptoms for 10 years before they ever experience joint pain.

You may experience joint stiffness lasting 30 minutes or more after you wake up. These symptoms can make even simple tasks, like getting dressed or getting in and out of a car, hard to do.

Other psoriatic arthritis symptoms may include:

  • Pitting of the nails or separation from the nail bed
  • Pain and stiffness in the neck and lower back
  • Morning stiffness
  • Reduced range of motion
  • Painful, sausage-like swelling in fingers and/or toes

We’ve put together a quick symptom checker that you can answer and then take to your rheumatologist or dermatologist in order to share your symptoms. Take the ‘Psoriatic arthritis symptom checker’.

What causes psoriatic arthritis?

The exact cause of psoriatic arthritis is unknown, but it may result from a combination of factors.

Immune system

Psoriatic arthritis occurs when your body’s immune system begins to attack healthy cells and tissue. The abnormal immune response causes inflammation in your joints as well as overproduction of skin cells. Its not entirely clear why the immune system turns on healthy tissue, but it’s likely that both genetic and environmental factors play a role.


  • Psoriatic arthritis tends to run in families


  • Viral or bacterial infections
  • Physical injury

Diagnosing Psoriatic arthritis.

There is no single test for psoriatic arthritis and the diagnosis is usually made by:

  • Taking a medical history
  • Physical examination
  • Blood tests
  • X-rays and MRIs of the joints that have symptoms

Talk with your doctor

We’ve put together a checklist that you can take along to your rheumatologist visit to discuss symptoms and treatment options.

Take the ‘Psoriatic Arthritis symptom quiz’

‘Psoriatic Arthritis symptom quiz’