If you’re among the 1 million Canadians living with psoriasis, there’s an almost 1 in 3 chance your joints may be affected at some point. And here’s why, psoriasis is linked to a form of arthritis called psoriatic arthritis — or PsA. 

According to a recent survey, most Canadians just aren’t making this association. In fact, only 1 in 6 of those surveyed who live with psoriasis associates it to pain in their joints when they think about their condition. Results show that Canadians are as likely to connect psoriasis with arthritis as they are pickles with ice cream or peanut butter with onions!

Both psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis are caused by your body’s own immune system turning itself on automatically as if it is fighting a foreign infection when there is none there. The body’s response to the attack is inflammation or swelling, which results in the red itchy and scaly patches of psoriasis and the joint swelling and pain of PsA.

The diagnosis of psoriatic arthritis is not always an easy one to make because the symptoms are similar to other arthritic diseases like gout, osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, notes Dr. Catherine Ivory, a rheumatologist (see image above, left). “We often look for visible signs such as tendon and joint inflammation, one swollen “sausage” finger or pitted nails,” she says. “But there’s also the invisible, or harder to detect clues, such as a family history of psoriasis or constant fatigue.”

Fortunately, if a dermatologist is caring for your psoriasis, they are likely keeping a watchful eye on both your skin and joints.  “It’s important to recognize the potential symptoms early because, if left untreated, psoriatic arthritis can severely damage your joints,” says dermatologist Dr. Jennifer Beecker. “That’s why I regularly ask my psoriasis patients about their joints and continue to emphasize the importance of awareness and education.”

My Skin and Bones is a collaboration between the Canadian Association of Psoriasis Patients and Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc. NPR/COSpa/0119