Psoriatic Arthritis Image

Psoriatic arthritis is a condition that causes pain and swelling in the joints and scaly patches of skin known as psoriasis. Psoriatic arthritis occurs in people with psoriasis, but not everyone with psoriasis develops the arthritis.

Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that causes severe itching, most commonly in patches on the elbows, knees, and scalp. An estimated 10% of patients with psoriasis will develop psoriatic arthritis, with the joint symptoms often appearing approximately 10 years after the start of the skin condition.1 Approximately 7.5 million Americans have the skin condition psoriasis, while the estimate of people with psoriatic arthritis is between 0.25% and 1% of the population .2

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Psoriatic arthritis will first manifest as the skin condition in most cases, sometimes years before joint symptoms will be present. The joints that are most commonly affected with psoriatic arthritis include those closest to the tips of the fingers and toes. The joints of the hips, knees, and spine can also become involved.

The causes of both psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis are largely unknown. It is believed that genetic, environmental and immunologic factors can contribute. Prevalence of psoriatic arthritis is equal across both genders, and is also found in children. Although the disease may affect any age group, patients between the ages of 30 and 50 years are at greatest risk.3

The treatment for psoriatic arthritis may vary depending on the type of psoriatic arthritis. It usually includes one or a combination of the following:

  • Topical treatments to control psoriasis outbreaks
  • Medications to reduce joint pain and swelling
  • Specialized therapy to help control psoriasis
  • Exercise to relieve stiffness and maintain strength in surrounding muscles.

References:

  1. National Psoriasis Foundation, accessed December 2010, http://www.psoriasis.org.
  2. Gladman and Chandran, Psoriatic Arthritis (Oxford University Press, 2009), 5.
  3. "About psoriatic arthritis," National Psoriasis Foundation, accessed October 2010, http://www.psoriasis.org.
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Written by Judith Frank, MD
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