Psoriatic arthritis vs. osteoarthritis: What is the difference between them?

Arthritis is a term used to describe over 100 conditions that cause joint pain or joint damage. Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common type of arthritis, affecting over 30 million Americans.

Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) and OA share some common symptoms, but there are also some key differences between the conditions.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of each include:

Psoriatic arthritis symptoms

People with PsA may have:

  • painful, swollen joints
  • stiffness (especially after rest)
  • sausage-like fingers and toes
  • pain in the tendons and ligaments
  • fatigue
  • thick, red, and scaly patches of skin
  • nail changes
  • reduced range of motion
  • red, irritated eyes
  • vision problems

Symptoms of PsA typically affect the:

  • ankles
  • fingers
  • knees
  • lower back
  • toes

Below is a 3-D model of psoriatic arthritis.

This model is fully interactive and can be explored with your mouse pad or touchscreen.

Osteoarthritis symptoms

Symptoms of OA vary and depend on the part of the body that is affected. OA symptoms generally include:

  • painful and stiff joints (especially after rest or overuse)
  • swollen joints
  • reduced range of motion (that improves with movement)
  • a clicking noise when a joint bends
  • noticeable bony lumps near the affected joints
  • changes in joint shape

OA can affect any joint, but most commonly occurs in the:

  • fingers
  • hips
  • knees
  • lower back
  • neck
  • toes

PsA is an autoimmune disease, which means the body mistakenly identifies its own cells as a threat and attacks them. The reason this happens is unknown. Genetic and environmental factors also play a role in this disease process.

PsA only affects those with the skin condition psoriasis. It is estimated that 30 percent of people with psoriasis will develop PsA. Skin symptoms usually develop before joint symptoms. Arthritis symptoms appear first in 15 percent of cases.

Osteoarthritis causes

OA, on the other hand, is caused by the gradual breakdown of cartilage at the end of the bones. Cartilage is a flexible, slippery tissue that cushions and protects the ends of bones, allowing them to move against one another without friction.

If the cartilage completely wears away, the action of bone against bone results in pain, stiffness, and reduced range of motion. It also causes irreversible damage to both the joint and bones.

Treatments for PsA include:


Several drugs are available including:

  • pain relievers
  • disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs)
  • immunosuppressants
  • TNF-alpha inhibitors
  • steroid injections
  • medications for skin and nail conditions


A surgeon may replace a joint with an artificial joint that is made from plastic and metal if it is severely damaged.

Lifestyle changes

Some lifestyle modifications that may help include:

  • Protecting the joints during everyday domestic activities by using kitchen gadgets to open jars and lifting items with both hands.
  • Maintaining a healthful body weight helps reduce stress on the joints.
  • Following an anti-inflammatory diet.
  • Engaging in regular exercise to build up muscle and encourage joint flexibility.
  • Getting enough sleep to counteract the fatigue caused by medications and chronic illness.
  • Seeking emotional support if necessary.

Treatment for OA

OA symptoms can be managed through:


Pain can be alleviated with:

  • acetaminophen
  • nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • duloxetine (Cymbalta)
  • injected medications


A doctor may recommend physical therapy and occupational therapy for people with OA.

A physical therapist can create an exercise program to reduce pain, strengthen the muscles, and increase the range of motion.

An occupational therapist teaches people how to reduce the pressure on their joints when carrying out everyday tasks.


Surgery may be necessary to replace severely damaged joints. A replacement joint is the last resort option.

Lifestyle changes

Lifestyle changes that may help OA include:

  • Doing regular exercise to strengthen the muscles around the joint.
  • Maintaining a healthy body weight to reduce stress on the joint.
  • Applying hot and cold compresses to reduce pain.
  • Using an over-the-counter (OTC) pain cream for temporary symptom relief.
  • Supporting weak joints with braces, shoe inserts, or taping techniques.
  • Using equipment such as canes, walkers, and grabbing devices.
  • Getting enough sleep to counteract the fatigue caused by medication and chronic pain.
  • Seeking emotional support if necessary.


There is no cure for either PsA or OA, but symptoms can be managed with

  • medications
  • therapies
  • lifestyle changes

Joints that are severely damaged may require surgery.

People with painful, swollen, or stiff joints should see a doctor if symptoms persist for a few weeks. These conditions can be disabling and cause further joint damage without treatment.

Source: Read Full Article