I was diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis in 2007. We thought that I was suffering from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, which is quite common during and after pregnancy. I had pain in my hands, and wrists, but it also extended to my elbow and shoulder, so my GP wasn’t convinced, and sent me to see a specialist to test for Carpal Tunnel to see if it was that. The test came back negative, and I was referred to a Rheumatologist. It actually took him about 2 minutes to diagnose me. He looked at my hands, looked at my feet, then asked me if I had or ever had psoriasis.
When I was 12, I developed a very itchy, flaky scalp. It refused to go away, even with copious usage of Head&Shoulder’s (horrible stuff, I can’t stand it) so my Mum dragged me off to the doctor. He diagnosed a fungal infection, blamed the fact that I wasn’t drying my hair after washing it, and prescribed some vile ointment which I was supposed to rub into my scalp. This stuff smelled horrible, made my hair greasy, and stained my scalp. I refused to use it after one application, I was 12, I was not happy about looking like I had a greasy comb over look. My Mum found some coal-tar shampoo, that helped to relieve my symptoms, so for years, when my scalp has been bad, I’ve used that, and never really thought about what could be causing the problem. I often suffer from achy joints, my hands, knees and feet get very painful, especially in the winter, when it’s cold, and I struggle to get over minor illnesses that other people throw off in a few days. A common cold can take 2 weeks to go, and I often was on antibiotics in the winter, for chest infections that wouldn’t shift.
It turns out all these things are linked. Psoriatic Arthritis, like other forms of arthritis, is an autoimmune based disease. My symptoms of psoriasis, swollen hands and sore joints, plus my weak response to normal bugs and viruses are classic signs of the disease. When the doctor explained it to me, it all made sense. He also said that pregnancy suppresses the symptoms, but then shortly after birth, when the hormones settle, the immune system kicks in and causes a massive flare up, hence why I was in so much pain about six months post partum.I am diagnosed as having Symmetric Arthritis, the most common type, usually affects multiple symmetric pairs of joints (occurring in the same joints on both sides of the body). Approximately 50 percent of people with this form of psoriatic arthritis will develop varying degrees of progressive disease, which destroys joints and can be disabling. (source) I am most affected in my feet, ankles, knees, hands, wrists, shoulders and neck.
I so far have avoided taking medication for my condition, other than occasional cortisone shots, as temporary relief. I was offered the choice of trying Methotrexate as a treatment, but the side effects are pretty serious, and I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of taking it. I do try to avoid certain trigger foods, and take certain supplements to try to help my symptoms and I find exercise really helps me.
One thing that the doctor told me was that my feeling tired, constantly, was also a symptom. He said that lack of sleep can cause a flare or prolong it, and when I am run down, and mid flare I feel exhausted. Some days it is actually a struggle to get out of bed. Once I am up and the pain in my ankles and knees has eased, I’m ok, but it is not an easy illness to live with. Being sleep deprived has made the last few months worse as it has exacerbated the condition.
I am fortunate, that although I do have this disease, it isn’t as severe as some forms of psoriatic arthritis, and so far it has been manageable. I did struggle and do still struggle to admit, that I have a long-term, chronic illness, and it isn’t something I talk about to many people. I don’t look ill, I don’t look like I’m in pain, so most of the time, I ignore it, or grin and bear it.
I found these links helpful.