As William Shakespeare once wrote for his tragic heroes Romeo and Juliet, ‘what’s in a name’? Psoriatic Arthritis and Psoriasis may sound incredibly similar and produce very similar symptoms, but how close are they in terms of their root causes, symptoms and manifestations? There are literally thousands of articles available online discussing the link between the two conditions, making it easy to get confused by their relationship, so we’re here to reveal all.
Before we dive into the details and reveal the link between the two, here’s a quick summary of what we know:
- Psoriasis [visibly] affects only the skin, and raised, red plaques covered with white scales. Psoriasis typically occurs on the knees, elbows, and scalp, and it can also affect the torso, palms, and soles of the feet.[i] Psoriatic arthritis can show many of the symptoms of psoriasis, but also manifests as arthritic joint pain and can occur in any area of the body.[ii]
- Up to 40% of people who have psoriasis will get psoriatic arthritis.[iii] Doctors can't predict PsA before it strikes.[iv]
- 85% of people who live with PsA experience skin problems associated with psoriasis before joint pains.[v]
- PsA usually develops about a decade after the onset of psoriasis (although this isn’t always the case).
- About 40% of people who get psoriatic arthritis have relatives with the condition itself or with psoriasis.iv
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So where’s the connection? Well, both conditions are rooted in inflammation occurring in the body. Put simply, if you have PsA or psoriasis then you have super-charged immune system; this may sound really impressive, but in reality means that your immune system goes into overdrive incredibly easily and ends up attacking the body itself. When this happens, PsA or psoriasis symptoms occur.iv Scientists don't know which genes are responsible for the immune system going into overdrive, but cracking this mystery is likely to be the key to discovering new treatments for the conditions.
Some research suggests that people with severe psoriasis could have a greater chance of getting psoriatic arthritis, although there isn’t any conclusive evidence on this. The good news is that the severity of your psoriasis doesn’t link to how strong PsA flare ups can be, so suffering from severe skin problems doesn’t necessarily mean experiencing strong arthritis symptoms.
Overall, the evidence is pretty clear that although two separate conditions, PsA and psoriasis often go hand in hand. So if you experience psoriasis then it’s important to look out for the signs of PsA. Symptoms can either develop slowly over time or appear rapidly; much like everything else related to PsA, it varies depending on the individual, but speak to your physician if you experience any of the following:
- Generalized fatigue
- Tenderness, pain and swelling over tendons
- Swollen fingers and toes
- Stiffness, pain, throbbing, swelling and tenderness in one or more joints
- A reduced range of motion
- Morning stiffness and tiredness
- Nail changes—for example, the nail separates from the nail bed and/or becomes pitted and mimics fungus infections
- Redness and pain of the eye, such as conjunctivitis
And remember, the PsA and Me community is always here for you – through your good days and your bad.