Psoriatic Arthritis

According to the American College of Rheumatology, psoriatic arthritis is a type of inflammatory arthritis that occurs in some patients with psoriasis (is a chronic skin condition caused by an overactive immune system) and can affect the joints in the body.

It is a chronic disease that may present as mild with occasional flair ups or, in more severe cases, can cause joint damage in fingers and toes, as well as larger joints in the lower extremities, such as knees, back and sacroiliac joints in the pelvis.

The Mayo Clinic describes the symptoms of psoriatic arthritis as:

  • Swollen fingers and toesPsoriatic arthritis can cause a painful, sausage-like swelling of your fingers and toes. You may also develop swelling and deformities in your hands and feet before having significant joint symptoms.
  • Foot pain -Psoriatic arthritis can also cause pain at the points where tendons and ligaments attach to your bones — especially at the back of your heel (Achilles tendinitis) or in the sole of your foot (plantar fasciitis).
  • Lower back pain -Some people develop a condition called spondylitis as a result of psoriatic arthritis. Spondylitis mainly causes inflammation of the joints between the vertebrae of your spine and in the joints between your spine and pelvis (sacroiliitis).

Psoriatic arthritis can go into remission.  When in remission, the symptoms may alternate causing them to subside for a time and then reappearing in the form of painful, swollen joints.

Many people with psoriatic arthritis may first think they have rheumatoid arthritis since both diseases have similar symptoms. The only difference is that psoriatic arthritis is prevalent in patients who have psoriasis of the skin as well.

When seeing your doctor to determine whether or not you may have psoriatic arthritis your doctor may examine your joints for swelling or tenderness, check your fingernails, hands, feet and toes for pitting, flaking or other abnormalities.

Psoriatic arthritis is diagnosed by X-rays, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), testing the rheumatoid factor (RF) antibody in your blood or a joint fluid test to see if you have uric acid crystals in your joint fluid.

Since there isn’t a cure for psoriatic arthritis, healthcare professionals are focused on controlling the symptoms and thwarting permanent damage to the joints.

Some medications prescribed to treat psoriatic arthritis include:

  • NSAIDs – Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can relieve pain and reduce inflammation. Over-the-counter NSAIDs include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, and others) and naproxen sodium (Aleve).
  • Disease-modifying ant rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) -These drugs can slow the progression of psoriatic arthritis and save the joints and other tissues from permanent damage.
  • Immunosuppressants -These medications act to tame your immune system, which is out of control in psoriatic arthritis.
  • TNF-alpha inhibitors – Tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) is an inflammatory substance produced by your body. TNF-alpha inhibitors can help reduce pain, morning stiffness, and tender or swollen joints.

Other procedures that have been effective are steroid injections or joint replacement surgery.  Steroid injections reduce inflammation rapidly and joint replacement surgery replaces the severely damaged joint with an artificial prosthesis made of metal and/or plastic.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of psoriatic arthritis and would like to speak with a doctor at Jamaica Hospital, call 718-206-7001 to schedule an appointment with a Rheumatology specialist.



All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.