What is Psoriatic Arthritis and Why Is It Trending?

Photo Credits: Amy Sussman / Staff/ Getty Images

Keeping up with Kim Kardashian West isn’t that hard. The reality star, who has been very candid in the past about her struggle with the skin condition psoriasis, has once again kept it real with her revelation that she’s also had a scary bout with psoriatic arthritis (PsA). West recently penned a personal essay on her sister Kourtney’s new site Poosh describing her history with red, itchy, bumpy flare-ups and an alarming incident that left her hands completely immobile. 

You May Also Like: Kim Kardashian West Says Her Psoriasis Has "Taken Over My Body"

In her essay, West recounts the events that led to her diagnosis: “One night, I woke up to use the restroom and I physically couldn’t pick up my phone. I thought it was strange but maybe I just slept on my hands weird and I was so tired, I didn’t need to be checking my phone at that hour anyway…I woke up that morning and I still couldn’t pick up my phone. I was freaking out—I couldn’t even pick up a toothbrush, my hands hurt so badly.”


What It Is
“Psoriatic arthritis is a type of arthritis that can destroy joints,” says Wilmington, NC dermatologist Kendall Egan. “Although it is associated with the classic psoriasis skin spots, you can develop psoriatic arthritis without having any skin lesions.”

Scottsdale, AZ dermatologist Anthony Nuara, MD says he too suffers from psoriatic arthritis and has learned to manage it. “While it may be an autoimmune disease, we have not yet identified the target the immune system is seeing. There is no blood test for PsA,” he says. “It is typically found in conjunction with psoriasis, but not always. It strikes roughly a third of people with psoriasis, myself included. The joint pain is usually worse in the morning and improves with use throughout the day.”

How It’s Treated
“Psoriatic arthritis is stoppable, but not reversible,” explains Fort Lauderdale dermatologist Dr. Igor Chaplik. “It will continue to damage the joints unless a form of internal medication is introduced. Certain diets may help avoid flares of mild cases of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, but to protect the joints medication is needed.”

Even before her diagnosis, West admits she’d tried every natural treatment to keep her psoriasis at bay: “Before the arthritis hit, I spent about four months doing everything natural—every ointment, cream, serum, and foam you can possibly imagine and everything from the dermatologist. I even tried an herbal tea that tasted like tar. I tried celery juice for eight weeks. Then I’d do celery juice mixed with the tea. I would do that twice a day. I was just exhausted by everything. I changed my diet to plant-based (which I still follow).”

Diet is one way to treat psoriasis and PsA, but another is through a class of medications called biologics. “They are antibody-based therapies that can be injected in the home or office,” says Dr. Nuara. “There are several, which is wonderful, but they all have pluses and minuses. This is where a conversation with a board-certified dermatologist and/or rheumatologist is key.”

Vernoa, NJ dermatologists Avnee Shah, MD adds “Both biological injectable agents and oral medications like Otezla can simultaneously treat both joint and skin disease.”

PsA can come on suddenly and with no warning. “It can strike even before skin psoriasis is evident,” says Guelph, Canada dermatologist Dusan Sajic, MD. “The key is to notify your doctor if joint pain is worse with rest and in the morning. It’s very important to treat PsA as early as possible, before any damage is permanent in the joints. We are living in a golden age where more and more treatments are becoming available. Our ability to modify, rather than stop the immune response, is improving. This means the risk of side-effects, such as infection, is improving.”