Is Psoriatic Arthritis Considered a Disability?

Ask a Doctor

I’m a carpenter nearing retirement. I’ve always had psoriasis, but just recently it’s been hard to haul around lumber and climb around on roofs. My doctor diagnosed me with psoriatic arthritis (PsA) and told me to take it easy on the job site. Trouble is, I can’t afford not to work. Can I file a disability claim for my condition? Is psoriatic arthritis considered a disability?

Doctor’s Response

Psoriatic arthritis can be extremely painful and debilitating without proper treatment, and quality of life can be greatly affected. In some people, PsA can be disabling.

Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is an inflammatory form of arthritis that affects the joints and bones as well as the skin. It is a chronic, progressive disease that can result in damage to joints and bones if it is not treated. Like psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis can range from mild to severe. Severe psoriatic arthritis typically affects four or more joints. Symptoms of psoriatic arthritis include pain, swelling, and stiffness of joints. Another common symptom is swollen fingers and toes, which have a sausage-like appearance.

Psoriatic arthritis can also affect the spine (called spondylitis), making it difficult to move. The most severe form of psoriatic arthritis is called arthritis mutilans and it can deform and destroy the small joints of the fingers and toes.

If your doctor prescribes a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as ibuprofen (Motrin, Nuprin, Advil, Excedrin IB), and you have morning stiffness, the best time to take the drug may be in the evening after dinner and again when you wake up. Taking these medications with food will reduce stomach upset. Do not take them within an hour of bedtime because they can injure the lining of the esophagus and stomach.

Exercise is important to keep the pain and swelling of arthritis to a minimum. A good exercise program can improve movement, strengthen muscles to stabilize joints, improve sleep, strengthen the heart, increase stamina, reduce weight, and improve physical appearance.

Usually, a normal amount of rest and sleep will help to reduce joint inflammation and fatigue. In a few people, psoriatic arthritis can cause extreme fatigue.

Heat and cold treatments can temporarily reduce pain and joint swelling. You might try soaking in a warm tub or placing a warm compress or cold pack on the painful joint.

Psoriatic arthritis tends to alternate between flare-ups and periods of improvement. It leads to joint damage and severe disability in many of the people it affects. Some people may need surgery.

The following factors influence how severe your psoriatic arthritis will be:

  • Clinical pattern (see symptoms)
  • Symptoms beginning when you are young
  • Severity of skin symptoms
  • Female sex
  • Family history of arthritis

Rarely, complications such as joint dislocations of the neck and leaking of the heart valves may develop.

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William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR coauthored this article


National Psoriasis Foundation. About Psoriatic Arthritis. 2018. 21 November 2018 .