Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis

The following information will help answer some of your questions about psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. It will also provide information about medications used to treat psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.

What is psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis?

Psoriasis [sore-EYE-ah-sis] is a lifelong skin disease. It can cause itchy or sore patches of thick, red skin with silvery scales. These patches are called plaques [plaks]. Plaques can appear anywhere on your body, though are most commonly found on the elbows, knees, legs, scalp, lower back, face, palms of hands and soles of feet. People with psoriasis can develop pain, swelling, and stiffness in their joints. This condition is called psoriatic [sore-EE-at-ic] arthritis, or PsA.

What causes psoriasis and PsA?

The exact causes of psoriasis and PsA are not totally understood. Some factors, like your genes and immune system, play a role. Psoriasis can also develop without a reason.

With psoriasis, the immune system doesn't work properly. As a result, the life cycle of skin cells changes, causing new skin to form too quickly, build up, and form a plaque. The immune system may also attack healthy cells, joints and tissues, causing the swollen, painful joints commonly seen with PsA.

You may have times when your skin worsens or your joints seem more stiff and painful. This is called "having a flare." Flares can be caused by stress, cold/dry weather, skin damage like a cut/bruise, smoking, and being sick.

How are psoriasis and PsA treated?

There is no cure for psoriasis and PsA. However, treatment can help reduce the appearance of plaques and decrease your symptoms.

Your doctor will choose the best treatments for you, which may include:

  • Topical medications applied to your skin. This can feel soothing and decrease symptoms.
  • Light therapy can reduce inflammation and slow plaque formation.
  • Immunosuppressant medications can be taken by mouth or injected and help suppress or slow down your immune system.

View a video with more information on Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis treatment and care.

For more information about psoriasis and PsA:

  • American Academy of Dermatology
    Phone: 1-866-503-7546
    Public and Patients → Diseases: A-Z Index → Psoriasis or Psoriatic Arthritis
  • The Arthritis Foundation
    Phone: 1-404-872-7100
    About Arthritis → Arthritis Types → Psoriatic Arthritis
  • National Institute of Arthristis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
    Phone: 1-877-226-4267
    Find Health Topic → P → Psoriasis or Psoriatic Arthritis
  • National Psoriasis Foundation
    Phone: 1-800-723-9166