Psoriatic Arthritis Causes: Triggers and Risk Factors

Do you suffer from psoriasis? If you answered yes to that question, do you also experience joint pain and inflammation? Have you been tested for psoriatic arthritis, if yes? Psoriatic arthritis is one of the three most common types of arthritis, followed in prevalence by osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Thirty percent of the population of individuals with psoriasis (characterized by red, itchy patches of skin, usually covered in silver scales) will also develop psoriatic arthritis. Men and women are equally affected by the disease. Eighty-five percent of individuals with psoriatic arthritis also have psoriasis. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, the onset of psoriatic arthritis usually occurs in your fourth and fifth decade.

85% of People with Psoriatic Arthritis who also have Psoriasis


What are the Symptoms of Psoriatic Arthritis?

If you think you are suffering from psoriatic arthritis, what are some warning signs? There are five types of psoriatic arthritis – most of the common symptoms of the disease are not characterized by the type of arthritis from which you suffer. The five types of psoriatic arthritis are:

  • Symmetric polyarthritis – characterized by joint inflammation occurring on both sides of the body equally
  • Asymmetric olioarticular – characterized by joint pain that involves different joints on both sides of the body
  • Spondylitis – characterized by pain and inflammation affecting the spine
  • Distal interphalangeal – characterized by joint pain and inflammation affecting the fingers and toes
  • Arthritis mutilans – the most severe case of psoriatic arthritis, which often causes deformity in the hands and feet
arthritis symptoms

The following are some of the more common symptoms of psoriatic arthritis. You don’t have to experience all of the symptoms to be diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis. However, if you suspect you might be suffering from psoriatic arthritis, you should see a doctor for a confirmed diagnosis. Symptoms can include:

  • Joint pain
  • Joint swelling
  • Dactylitis (swelling of the fingers and toes)
  • Back pain (can indicate psoriatic spondylitis)
  • Foot pain
  • Joint stiffness (especially when waking or after resting for a period of time)
  • Tendon or ligament pain
  • Nail pitting and/or infected looking nail beds
  • Fatigue
  • Reduced mobility
  • Eye pain


What Causes Psoriatic Arthritis?

Psoriatic arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disorder where the body is essentially attacking itself. That is, your body’s immune system starts attacking healthy cells and tissue. This autoimmune response is the cause of the joint pain and inflammation.

But what causes the psoriatic arthritis? Unfortunately, little is known about the true cause of psoriatic arthritis; however, it is believed that both genetics and the environment are at play. You are at an increased risk of developing psoriatic arthritis if your family members have psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis. Environmentally speaking, some believe having certain viral or bacterial infections can increase your chances of developing psoriatic arthritis.

joint pain

The three most common causes of psoriatic arthritis include:

  • Having psoriasis – this is the leading cause of developing psoriatic arthritis


  • Your family history – there is a genetic link with this disease – many individuals who have psoriatic arthritis also have a sibling or parent with the disease


  • Your age – While you can develop psoriatic arthritis at any age, the disease’s onset is most likely to develop between the ages of 40 and 50


While the true cause of psoriatic arthritis is unknown, there has been a link among individuals who have psoriatic spondylitis (psoriatic arthritis of the spine) and a gene marker. In 50% of individuals who suffer from psoriatic arthritis of the spine, blood test gene marker HLA-B27 is present.


Stressful life events can also cause psoriatic arthritis to present itself for the first time, or flare up, in individuals predisposed to the disease or individuals who have already been diagnosed with the disease.

Additionally, the onset of psoriatic arthritis has been linked to individuals who experienced strep throat, pointing to possible viral and bacterial links to at least the onset of the disease.

Obesity can also increase an individual’s risk of developing psoriatic arthritis.


What Causes Flare-ups?

If you’ve already been diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis, you will notice that your symptoms tend to wax and wane. These periods of intensity and mildness of symptoms are called “flares” or “flare-ups” and are very common in individuals who have the disease. While several things may cause flare-ups, the following are the most common:

  • Stress – try to reduce stress as much as possible



  • Dry skin – keep skin moisturized


  • Sunburn – getting sun helps psoriasis; however, sunburns exacerbate the situation


  • Certain medications – antimalarial drugs, beta blockers, and lithium have all been known to increase psoriatic arthritis flare-ups


  • Climate – any type of climate that can cause dry skin can increase your risk for flare-ups


  • Alcohol consumption – alcohol can interfere with the uptake of medications for psoriatic arthritis and also increases your risk of flare-ups


  • Gluten – gluten, found in certain grains (barley, wheat, and rye) can cause flare-ups of psoriatic arthritis symptoms


  • Common infections – Upper respiratory infections, including thrush and strep throat, can all be triggers for psoriatic arthritis flare-ups



How is Psoriatic Arthritis Treated?

Psoriatic arthritis can be treated through medications and lifestyle changes. Medications most often prescribed for psoriatic arthritis include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Immunosuppressants
  • Tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha)
  • Disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs)
  • Steroids

Medications can only treat the symptoms of psoriatic arthritis. However, lifestyle changes can help to reduce flare-ups and increase mobility. Some lifestyle changes include:

  • Exercise
  • Stress-reduction techniques
  • Eating a healthy diet

When you experience repeated psoriatic arthritis flare-ups, you might be able to notice a trend in certain triggers (e.g., stress, eating a certain type of food). If you can spot these triggers, you can concentrate on trying to eliminate or reduce them from your environment.



Psoriatic Arthritis Prognosis and Outlook

What is the prognosis for individuals who experience psoriatic arthritis? Some of it depends on the type of psoriatic arthritis you have. But, overall, the sooner you are diagnosed and begin treatment, the better your prognosis and pain will be.

healthy living

While psoriatic arthritis is a chronic, yet progressive disease, in that it tends to get worse over time, you may have a milder form that doesn’t cause too much pain and decreased mobility. For example, the most common type of psoriatic arthritis, asymmetric oligarticular, tends to come with the mildest symptoms. In contrast, the rarest form, yet the most debilitating form, arthritis mutilans, can cause severe deformities.

Whatever the type of psoriatic arthritis you have, the sooner you receive treatment and the more persistent you are in making lifestyle changes, the less pain and better quality of life you will experience.