Imagine a disease where your body stops recognizing parts of itself and begins to attack healthy tissue it sees as “invaders.” While this may sound like the plot of a science fiction novel, there are conditions that do just that. Autoimmune disorders develop when the immune system malfunctions in a way that causes it to attack healthy parts of your body. One such condition is psoriatic arthritis. Here’s what it is and early psoriatic arthritis symptoms to watch out for.

What is psoriatic arthritis?

Psoriatic arthritis is just one of the more than 100 different types of arthritis that affects 175 million people worldwide.

This inflammatory condition primarily affects people who are diagnosed with psoriasis, but it can also be diagnosed in those who have a close relative with psoriasis even when they do not have that condition themselves.

What are the first signs of psoriatic arthritis?

The earliest sign of the potential for psoriatic arthritis is the development of psoriasis. Other than that, psoriatic arthritis early symptoms can be easily mistaken for early symptoms of other conditions. You might experience increasing stiffness in the joints when you wake up or sit still for a period of time. You might notice swelling in a finger or a toe. Maybe you see some changes in your fingernails, such as ridges or grooves or maybe nails separating from the nail bed. You may notice a sudden increase in fatigue, or feel very tired for no apparent reason.

It can be easy to dismiss these psoriatic arthritis signs, but it’s important to pay attention to them. Over 200,000 cases of psoriatic arthritis are diagnosed annually. Most people develop this condition between the ages of 30 and 50, but it can occur in children as well. Psoriatic arthritis is an equal opportunity condition, with men and women diagnosed in equal numbers.

The exact cause of psoriatic arthritis is not well known. In all cases, approximately 40% of patients have a close relative with the disease, suggesting a genetic component. For those without a close relative with this condition, they may have experienced an infection that triggered their immune system.

It is important to note that psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis is not contagious. This type of autoimmune disorder is also completely unrelated to the HIV/AIDS autoimmune disorder. For some people, this misconception can prevent them from seeking treatment. It is important to recognize the distinction and seek treatment to help control your symptoms.

11 of the most common psoriatic arthritis symptoms

Although psoriatic arthritis signs are similar to some other conditions, there are symptoms specific to this condition alone. The eleven most common symptoms for psoriatic arthritis include the following:

  1. Scaly, patchy skin rashes
  2. Stiff and swollen joints
  3. “Sausage fingers” or swollen fingers
  4. Ligament and tendon pain
  5. Changes to the nails
  6. Extreme fatigue
  7. Limited range of motion in the joints
  8. Issues with the eyes
  9. Lower back pain
  10. Asymmetrical pain
  11. Flares

Let’s take a closer look at each symptom.

Scaly, patchy skin rashes

Scaly, patchy skin rashes are the hallmark of psoriasis. An estimated 30% of people with psoriasis will develop psoriatic arthritis, so it’s important to pay attention to this potential early symptom.

When more symptoms are present, psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis may be diagnosed at the same time.

Stiff and swollen joints

Whether caused by inflammation or joint damage, stiff and swollen joi