It’s said psoriatic arthritis can be a tricky to diagnose—tell me about it 🙂 I was 25 years old when I first started experiencing the symptoms of arthritis, and it took another 25 years before I was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis—so I was 50 before I started receiving treatment that would actually help me.
Experts say what helps make psoriatic arthritis so hard to diagnosis is because it’s not that common and can mimic the symptoms of other conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and gout. Perhaps so, but my diagnosis was missed for so long even though I’d had severe psoriasis since the age of five—with plaques over 90% of my body—that was formally diagnosed after several biopsies. I suppose the doctors I saw were not aware that those with severe psoriasis have a greater chance of getting psoriatic arthritis.
When I started having symptoms of arthritis at the age of 25, my nails started to pit on both my hands and feet, with patches of flaky skin underneath which would thicken and sometimes lift the nail as it grew. The doctors thought it due to my having psoriasis, but never tested me for psoriatic arthritis or even think it was bad enough to be treated.
Then the swelling started. One finger would swell so bad that I couldn’t even write my name. As the years went by, more fingers would swell and I would get tennis elbow and sore feet and shoulders. The swelling or pain would last for a short while and eventually go back to normal. I went to many doctors over the years and they would give me different painkillers, which never helped much. No one ever put together psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. So each time I went to the doctor it was treated as an isolated incident and I was given more painkillers.
Over the next 15 years, my pain got worse and I would I try natural remedies along with medical ones, but nothing ever gave me any relief. I just learned to accept life and live with my condition and pain. When my psoriasis was real bad, I would use creams and wait for the symptoms to get better. Whenever my arthritis acted up, I learned to endure it for a few months until it calmed down.
Then ten years ago, the arthritis pain got worse. I knew I was in bad shape when I went to throw a quarter in the toll booth and couldn’t do it because the pain was so bad. I had to get out of the car to put a quarter in. Even lifting small things was a problem.
I had assumed that just like my other arthritic experiences, this flare would disappear as mysteriously as it came, but after a year or so, this was clearly not happening. I also started to develop pain in the ball of my foot, which again, got worse, with toes becoming swollen too.
By this time I realized that my arthritis was not following its usual path. On some days I felt as if my whole body was in pain and I needed help walking. I had made some friends who had both psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, and they told me I needed to see a rheumatologist to get the proper diagnosis. They suspected that it was psoriatic arthritis.
I was scared of what was happening to my body and decided to see a rheumatologist. After many tests I was told I had psoriatic arthritis. I was 50, and after seeing so many doctors, this was music to my ear. I finally had a diagnosis and could start getting the treatments that I so desperately needed.
I am presently on biologics which I have been using for the past 10 years. They have been wonder drugs for me. I have been on several because sometimes they do stop working.
There still are some days when my fingers feel like they are falling off. When I was asked to start writing blogs for CreakyJoints, I felt that there was no way I could do this. Even on a biologic, I always have a pain somewhere and my hands are the worst. When my hands hurt the keyboard is not my friend; but I must say that with motivation I have overcome and continue writing. My sister is always telling me that I need to write a book about my life because I have overcome so many odds. One day I think this will happen.
I know that many of you suffer the same as I do, and we all go from medication to medication, and think our life is over because we are constantly in pain. I just want to say, don’t give up your dreams; just go for it.
The one thing that I have learned is that we are not alone in this journey. There is someone going through exactly what we’re going through. We are not alone in this fight. I know there are times when you feel you can’t go on. Please consider finding someone to talk too; join a support group. Also, never let anyone tell you that you can’t be treated. There is a treatment that will help you. Just keep hoping that one day a cure will be found for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.
Over the years I have been an active advocate for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, speaking up and out about this disease. I am now Executive Director of the nonprofit Psoriasis Network Support: www.psoriasisnetwork.org.