Psoriatic Arthritis Definition

Arthritis that accompanies the skin disease psoriasis. Psoriasis is a chronic condition characterized by inflammation and thick scaling of the skin. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, it affects as many as 7.5 million Americans. About 15% of people with psoriasis have the accompanying joint pain and inflammation known as psoriatic arthritis.

Psoriatic arthritis usually develops after the onset of psoriasis, sometimes many years after. Occasionally, it develops before the skin disorder does. In its milder form, psoriatic arthritis may only affect joints on one side of the body. In its more severe forms, it can affect joints on both sides of the body or concentrate in the spine or in the joints of the fingers.

Most researchers agree that both psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis are autoimmune conditions, meaning that they are caused by a malfunctioning immune system. In psoriasis, the body’s immune system causes excessive reproduction and build-up of cells on the outer layer of the skin. In psoriatic arthritis, the immune system inflames the joints, causing pain, stiffness, and, in more severe cases, joint destruction.

Treatment for psoriatic arthritis is similar to treatment for other types of inflammatory arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) are often used to control pain and inflammation. Doctors may also prescribe corticosteroid drugs such as prednisone or ¬ disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) such as methotrexate (Rheumatrex, Trexall), sulfasalazine (Azulfidine), and cyclosporine (Neoral). In some cases, where DMARDs cannot sufficiently control the condition, biologic drugs such as etanercept (Enbrel), infliximab (Remicade), and adalimumab (Humira) may be prescribed.

Learn more about psoriatic arthritis symptoms, treatment, and diagnosis here.

Robert S. Dinsmoor is a medical writer and editor based in Massachusetts.

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