Psoriatic arthritis is a form of inflammatory arthritis that causes swelling and pain. It is not the same as fibromyalgia, which is a chronic condition that causes pain and fatigue. However, the conditions can co-occur.

Some people with fibromyalgia may experience joint pain, which is a common symptom of psoriatic arthritis. This shared symptom means that people may mistake one condition for the other. However, people will only meet the criteria for a psoriatic arthritis diagnosis if they have very specific joint signs that are not present in people with fibromyalgia.

In this article, we explain psoriatic arthritis and fibromyalgia in more detail, outlining the causes, symptoms, and treatment of each.

A person with psoriatic arthritis and fibromyalgia.Share on Pinterest
WIN-Initiative/Neleman/Getty Images

Psoriatic arthritis is a chronic autoimmune form of arthritis that has a link with the skin-related condition psoriasis.

Psoriasis is another autoimmune condition that causes skin cells to develop rapidly. The accelerated growth cycle leads to thick, scaly plaques on the skin that can be itchy and uncomfortable.

If a person has psoriatic arthritis, their immune system attacks the body’s healthy cells. This attack causes inflammation, most commonly in the joints and skin. Psoriatic arthritis can also cause inflammation in some organs.

Genes and environmental triggers may play a role in the development of psoriatic arthritis. Environmental triggers can include skin and joint traumas or viruses.

Psoriatic arthritis symptoms

When inflammation occurs due to psoriatic arthritis, it can cause a person to experience a range of symptoms.

Below are some of the common signs and symptoms of psoriatic arthritis:

  • discolored, scaly patches of skin that are itchy and painful
  • joint stiffness, pain, tenderness, and swelling
  • nail changes, such as dents, ridging, and crumbling
  • enthesitis, which is inflammation of an enthesis — the point where a tendon or ligament attaches to a bone

Psoriatic rashes most commonly affect the skin on the knees, elbows, and scalp, but they can occur anywhere on the body.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that causes pain throughout the body, along with fatigue. People with this condition have a heightened response to pain and can also react strongly to pressure, heat, sound, and light.

People may confuse the symptoms of fibromyalgia with those of arthritis and joint inflammation.

However, although people with fibromyalgia can experience pain and tenderness in their joints, there is no evidence that the condition causes inflammation.

Fibromyalgia can affect anyone, but it is more prevalent among females than males. It can affect people of any age, but it most commonly starts in middle age.

Fibromyalgia symptoms

Common symptoms of fibromyalgia include:

  • chronic pain throughout the body
  • fatigue and extreme tiredness
  • trouble sleeping

Fibromyalgia pain can be mild or severe, and people may describe it as burning, aching, throbbing, or numbing. The pain can begin in one area of the body and spread to others.

Various factors can influence fibromyalgia pain, including:

  • the time of the day
  • the person’s activity level
  • weather conditions
  • sleep patterns
  • stress

It is not unusual to have psoriatic arthritis and fibromyalgia at the same time.

In a 2021 study involving 60 people with psoriatic arthritis, 23 individuals also had fibromyalgia. The participants with fibromyalgia reported more fatigue and a worse quality of life score than those who only had psoriatic arthritis.

Other recent research found that people with both conditions may have a higher joint disease activity. The researchers used various measures of disease activity, including:

  • tender joint count
  • swollen joint count
  • Bath Ankylosing Spondylitis Disease Activity Index
  • enthesitis

Medical professionals do not fully understand what causes psoriatic arthritis. However, experts believe that a combination of genetic and environmental triggers may contribute to the development of this condition. Possible environmental triggers include infections, stress, and physical trauma.

Similarly, experts do not know what causes fibromyalgia. However, there are two main risk factors that can increase a person’s chances of developing the condition: reaching middle age and having lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. The condition is also more likely to affect females than males.

Doctors are likely to diagnose psoriatic arthritis by carrying out various tests, including:

  • check of symptom severity and family history
  • physical examination for joint pain and skin and nail changes
  • X-rays and other imaging to look for changes in the bones and joints
  • blood tests to check for signs of inflammation

A doctor cannot use laboratory tests to diagnose fibromyalgia. Instead, they may use other measures, including:

  • widespread pain index score, which lists the 19 areas on the body where people with fibromyalgia commonly experience pain
  • presence of “fibro fog,” which refers to difficulty thinking, focusing, and problem-solving
  • presence of disrupted sleep patterns
  • extent of fatigue
  • severity of the symptoms

Doctors may also ask about other physical symptoms, such as headaches, bowel problems, and hair loss.

When diagnosing fibromyalgia, a doctor may use blood tests and X-rays to rule out other conditions that cause chronic pain and fatigue.

Although there is currently no cure for psoriatic arthritis or fibromyalgia, healthcare professionals can offer several treatments that may ease the symptoms.

Psoriatic arthritis treatment

Treatment for psoriatic arthritis aims to reduce inflammation, treat skin symptoms, relieve pain, and stop the progression of the disease.

The treatment options for psoriatic arthritis include:

In rare cases, a person with psoriatic arthritis may require joint surgery. This may be necessary if there is severe joint damage or other treatments do not reduce the pain.

Surgeons can replace damaged joints in various ways by using a plastic, metal, or ceramic prosthesis to reduce joint pain and improve joint function.

Fibromyalgia treatment

The treatments for fibromyalgia aim to reduce pain, stress, and fatigue.

Common treatments for this condition include:

Learn more about fibromyalgia treatment.

Psoriatic arthritis can negatively affect a person’s quality of life. Inflammation in several joints and a loss of joint function may indicate that this condition is progressing more aggressively. However, effective treatments can improve the quality of life.

There is no cure for fibromyalgia, and a person may experience the symptoms for the rest of their life. However, treatment options can help reduce the severity of these symptoms. Additionally, research suggests that treatment from primary care physicians in the community may lead to better outcomes than treatment in referral centers.

Psoriatic arthritis is a form of inflammatory arthritis that causes joint swelling and pain, as well as thick, scaly plaques on the skin that can be itchy and uncomfortable.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that causes bodywide pain and fatigue. People may mistake the symptoms of fibromyalgia for those of arthritis. However, fibromyalgia does not cause inflammation.

Doctors may prescribe various medications to treat psoriatic arthritis, including NSAIDs, DMARDs, and corticosteroids. The treatment for fibromyalgia includes CBT, relaxation techniques, medications, and exercise.