If you have psoriasis, you’ve probably been told that you’re at a higher risk for psoriatic arthritis (PsA). In fact, approximately 30 percent of people with psoriasis develop psoriatic arthritis compared to less than 1 percent of the general population. But what exactly does that mean?

Psoriatic arthritis is also an autoimmune disease that affects joints, causing pain, swelling, and stiffness. That may sound not-so-fun and actually quite dreadful, but it’s also really important that you look out for signs of psoriatic arthritis. Early diagnosis is essential, since the condition can cause irreversible damage to bones and cartilage when left untreated. For example, people diagnosed more than six months after symptoms first appeared had more bone and joint deterioration and less successful treatment outcomes than those diagnosed within six months, according to a study published in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.

Fortunately, when identified and treated early, joint damage can be minimized.