A person with aching hands

Psoriatic Arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is an inflammatory form of arthritis integrally linked to the autoimmune disease psoriasis. Symptoms include: 

  • Joint pain and stiffness 
  • Swelling of the fingers and toes 
  • Skin lesions
  • Nail deformity
  • Back pain 

Psoriatic arthritis can develop in people who don’t have a history of psoriasis, but it’s preceded by psoriasis around 85% of the time.

The causes of PsA are poorly understood, but genetics and environmental factors are believed to be at the root of the condition. Treatment focuses primarily on alleviating inflammation with either oral or injected medications. Surgery is rarely needed.

Psoriatic arthritis affects up to 1% of the U.S. population, affecting men and women equally. It’s typically diagnosed between ages 30 and 50, but it can occur at any age.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the first signs of psoriatic arthritis?

    Most of the time, psoriasis is the first symptom of psoriatic arthritis. It causes silvery-white skin lesions called plaques, which may appear on your scalp, elbows, knees, and lower back. Eventually, pain and stiffness develop as inflammation spreads from the skin to the joints and/or connective tissues.

  • What are the 5 types of psoriatic arthritis?

    Psoriatic arthritis is broadly divided into two groups- axial, which involves the spine and hips, and non-axial, which involves the peripheral joints.

    It can be further classified into 5 types:

    • Asymmetric oligoarticular: Affects two to three joints on one side
    • Symmetric polyarthritis: Affects more than four joints on both sides
    • Distal interphalangeal predominant (DIP): Involves the joint closest to the tips of fingers or toes
    • Psoriatic spondylitis: Involves inflammation and pain in the spinal column
    • Arthritis Mutilans: A severe form of erosive arthritis leading to bone loss and deformity
  • What foods trigger psoriatic arthritis?

    While no diet is shown to cure PsA, inflammatory foods may exacerbate symptoms. They include:

    • Red meat
    • Dairy
    • High-fructose corn syrup
    • Refined sugar
    • Refined carbs (white bread, white rice)
    • Trans fat

    An anti-inflammatory diet emphasizes whole grains, oily fish, dark green leafy vegetables, and fruits.

  • What does psoriatic arthritis look like?

    Psoriasis causes patches of red, rough skin with silvery scales. They’re most often around the joints of elbows, knees, hands, and feet. The skin surrounding the joint may develop blisters and appear cracked. On the scalp, it may look like dandruff.

Key Terms

How Psoriatic Arthritis Affects the Body

Explore interactive models that take a closer look at the effects of psoriatic arthritis throughout the body, and how the condition can progress both internally and externally.

Woman with psoriatic arthritis hand symptoms
What to Know About Psoriatic Arthritis (PsA) and Menopause
Doctor examining patient for psoriatic arthritis
Medical Tests Used to Diagnose Psoriatic Arthritis
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Psoriatic Arthritis and Type 2 Diabetes
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Psoriatic Arthritis and Anxiety
Arthritis Back Pain
Psoriatic Arthritis vs. Reactive Arthritis
Hands of person with psoriatic arthritis may have symptoms like joint pain, swelling, nail changes
Signs It’s Time to Switch Psoriatic Arthritis Treatments
Doctor examines patient for signs of nail changes and finger swelling, two signs of psoriatic arthritis
Diseases That Mimic Psoriatic Arthritis
Healthcare provider examines young person with juvenile psoriatic arthritis
Everything to Know About Juvenile Psoriatic Arthritis
Man getting COVID-19 vaccine
Psoriatic Arthritis and COVID Vaccines: What You Should Know
Woman walking with loved one who needs support for psoriatic arthritis
Tips on How to Support a Loved One With PsA
Illustration of subcutaneous injection
Tremfya (Guselkumab) – Subcutaneous: Uses, Side Effects, Dosages, Interactions
Shingles vaccine in psoriatic arthritis patients
Psoriatic Arthritis and Shingles Vaccination
Illustration of subcutaneous injection
Cosentyx (Secukinumab) Subcutaneous: Uses, Side Effects, Dosage
woman in bed with psoriasis and pcos
PCOS and Psoriatic Arthritis: Are They Interlinked?
Illustration of pill/capsule
Otezla (Apremilast) Oral: Uses, Side Effects, Dosages
Illustration of subcutaneous injection
Taltz (Ixekizumab) Subcutaneous: Uses, Side Effects, Dosages
Spine exam
Understanding the 5 Types of Psoriatic Arthritis
What's the Link Between Psoriatic Arthritis and IBD?
A health care provider listens to the heart of a patient with PsA (psoriatic arthritis)
Psoriatic Arthritis and Its Heart Risks
thyroid gland illustration
Are Underactive Thyroid and Psoriatic Arthritis Connected?
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Psoriatic Arthritis Cure: Efforts, Treatment, What’s Next
Arthritis Pain
Psoriatic Arthritis vs. Mixed Connective Tissue Disease
woman in pain rubbing neck
Why Psoriatic Arthritis and Depression Occur Together
woman stretching fingers back
Exercises for Psoriatic Arthritis: Benefits and Tips to Get Started
The hands of a male with psoriatic arthritis
Managing Morning Stiffness From PsA: What Works Best
Immune System and Psoriatic Disease
Have Psoriatic Arthritis? Here’s Your Cancer Risk
MS patient
Psoriatic Arthritis vs. Multiple Sclerosis
Psoriatic Arthritis and Lupus: A person's face with redness and a hand with redness
What To Know About Psoriatic Arthritis vs. Lupus
A hand and foot with potential PsA and/or Gout (What to Know About PsA and Gout)
Psoriatic Arthritis vs. Gout
Arthritic hands
Caring for Symptoms of PsA
Arthritic hands
What Is Psoriatic Arthritis Mutilans?
doctor checks spinal x-ray
Psoriatic Arthritis vs. Ankylosing Spondylitis
A person with psoriatic arthritis undergoes light therapy on their hands (Psoriatic Arthritis and Sacroiliitis)
Psoriatic Arthritis vs. Sacroiliitis
Treatment for PsA and RA: Medical symbol (Physical Therapy), food (healthy diet), tennis shoe with other item (exercise), surgical tools (surgery), medicine with a prescription (prescription medicine), NSAIDs
What To Know About Psoriatic Arthritis vs. Rheumatoid Arthritis
What to Know About Psoriatic Arthritis vs. Fibromyalgia
psoriatic arthritis damage in the hands
Psoriatic Arthritis and Bone Erosion
Scaly psoriasis patches are present on a woman's knee and elbow.
Is a Cure for Psoriatic Arthritis on the Way?
Imaging in PsA
What to Know About Radiology and Its Use in Psoriatic Arthritis
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Psoriatic Arthritis vs. Multiple Sclerosis: What's the Difference?
Psoriatic Arthritis Disability
What Does Psoriatic Arthritis Look Like?
What You Need to Know About Fasting If You Have Psoriatic Arthritis
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Does Vitamin C Help Psoriatic Arthritis?
woman administering injection to abdomen
An Overview of Psoriatic Arthritis Treatment Injections
human kidneys illustration
The Association Between Psoriatic Arthritis and Kidney Disease
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Everything You Need to Know About Psoriatic Arthritis Surgery
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Is There a Link Between Psoriatic Arthritis and Migraines?
woman suffering from low back pain
What You Need to Know About Psoriatic Arthritis and Back Pain
Close up of a doctor having an appointment with a patient with leg pain
Reactive Arthritis vs Psoriatic Arthritis: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment
Man holding his left knee in pain
Left Side Joint Pain: Common Causes, Exacerbating Factors
Man on running path stopped holding knee
How to Manage Psoriatic Arthritis Pain
Swollen finger beside other finger
Dactylitis With Psoriatic Arthritis: Causes & More
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Psoriatic Arthritis Blood Test: Types, How to Prepare
Closeup of a White person's hands with spots of psoriasis; they are squeezing a tube of white cream onto their finger
Psoriatic Arthritis Statistics
Closeup of a white person's hands, they are scratching one hand which is reddened.
Psoriatic Arthritis and the Flu
Diverse group
Ethnic Disparities: How Race Impacts Psoriatic Arthritis
Plasma Donation
What to Know About Plasma Donation with Psoriatic Arthritis
Tired young woman
What You Need to Know About Psoriatic Arthritis and Pernicious Anemia
hand x-rays
What to Know About Pencil-in-Cup Deformity
A person pouring a drop of oil from a brown bottle into their open palm.
How Does CBD Oil Work for Psoriatic Arthritis?
Psoriatic Disease
What To Know About Symmetric Psoriatic Arthritis
Page Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Veale DJ, Ritchlin C, Fitzgerald O. Immunopathology of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. Ann Rheum Dis. 2005;64 Suppl 2:ii26-9. doi:10.1136/ard.2004.031740

  2. Merola JF, Espinoza LR, Fleischmann R. Distinguishing rheumatoid arthritis from psoriatic arthritis. RMD Open. 2018;4(2):e000656. doi:10.1136/rmdopen-2018-000656

  3. Liu JT, Yeh HM, Liu SY, Chen KT. Psoriatic arthritis: Epidemiology, diagnosis, and treatment. World J Orthop. 2014;5(4):537–543. doi:10.5312/wjo.v5.i4.537

  4. Cleveland Clinic Center for Continuing Education. Psoriatic Arthritis. Updated October 2016.