What Can Cause Joint Pain and Skin Peeling?

A number of factors and conditions can produce joint pain and skin peeling, including illnesses and adverse reactions to certain medications. However, your symptoms might result from various autoimmune disorders, such as lupus, in which your body’s own immune system mistakenly attacks itself. Joint and skin conditions may last only a few weeks or may be chronic -- appearing and reappearing over a lifetime. Only your doctor can diagnose the exact cause of your symptoms.

A woman is holding her sore knee. (Image: lzf/iStock/Getty Images)


Sarcoidosis, an autoimmune disease that can affect multiple organs, results in masses of inflamed tissue that can affect your lungs, heart, liver, skin, lymph nodes, joints, muscles and bones. Sarcoidosis affects tens of thousands of people in the United States, according to a 2007 report from the Boston University School of Medicine. One common form of sarcoidosis, erythema nodosum, which causes raised, red and tender bumps on your skin, along with swelling and pain in your joints, often disappears on its own in six to eight weeks. However, you must seek treatment for a chronic form of skin sarcoidosis, called lupus pernio, which produces peeling lesions on your face and ears.

Another kind of sarcoidosis, musculoskeletal sarcoidosis, produces early-onset or late-onset arthritis as well as skin disorders. Early-onset arthritis produces pain, stiffness and swelling in your joints in conjunction with erythema nodosum and commonly heals itself in a few weeks or months. In contrast, late-onset results in less joint pain, but creates chronic skin symptoms, such as rashes, sores, scaling and peeling, which require medical attention. Your doctor may recommend taking anti-inflammatory drugs and participating in support groups to help you treat and cope with sarcoidosis.


Lupus, a chronic, autoimmune disease, can affect any part of your body, including your skin, joints and organs. Lupus generally appears in women between the ages of 15 and 45, but can occur at any age. Systemic lupus erythematosus comprises around 70 percent of all cases of lupus, according to a 2011 report from the United States Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health. Systemic lupus erythematosus produces symptoms, including painful joints, skin rashes, kidney problems and fatigue.

Types of cutaneous lupus erythematosus primarily affect the skin. Discoid lupus erythematosus produces a raised, red rash on the face and scalp that turns scaly or changes color. Subacute cutaneous lupus erythematosus results in skin lesions on parts of the body exposed to the sun. Strategies to help control symptoms of this disease include developing methods to reduce stress, attending support groups, eating a healthy diet, performing moderate exercise and seeing your doctor on a regular basis.

Kawasaki Disease

Although less likely, Kawasaki disease -- a possible autoimmune disorder -- might cause your painful joints and peeling skin. Although this disease primarily affects children, it also can occur in adults. According to an August 2010 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Kawasaki disease affects approximately nine to 19 per 100,000 children younger than five in the United States each year. This disease also affects more boys than girls and appears most often in Japan. Kawasaki disease produces inflammation of the arteries, including the coronary arteries in the heart, and can affect the lymph nodes, skin and mucus membranes in the nose, mouth and throat. Initial symptoms include a fever of 101.3 or higher that lasts up to two weeks, conjunctivitis and a rash on your trunk and genital area, according to MayoClinic.com. The next phase of symptoms can produce extreme peeling of the skin on your hands, feet and the tips of your fingers and toes as well as joint pain, diarrhea and vomiting. Although potentially fatal, with early diagnosis and treatments that include infusion of the immune protein gamma globulin and high doses of aspirin, full recovery occurs in most cases, according to MedlinePlus.

Psoriatic Arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis appears in up to 30 percent of people with psoriasis, a common skin disorder that results in thick, red and scaly skin, and frequently occurs between the ages of 30 and 50, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation. This autoimmune disease can appear suddenly with severe symptoms or develop slowly and produce mild symptoms. The majority of people suffer from psoriasis before developing symptoms of this disease, including fatigue, painful and swollen tendons, swollen fingers and toes as well as tender, swollen and painful joints. Psoriatic arthritis usually affects the joints closest to the nail in your fingers and toes, but can also produce pain in other joints. The mild or localized form of this disorder affects only one or two joints; whereas, the disabling form affects three or more joints. Your doctor might recommend treatments, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, dietary supplements and range-of-motion exercises, based on the severity of your illness.

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