5 Mistakes I Made Managing PsA
After dealing with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis for 13 years – first with my son, then with me – I’ve come to realize that even when the disease is being managed well, mistakes still happen. Here’s a list of five I’ve made over the years.
1. Not exercising
When joints are swollen and pain is making you miserable, it’s easy to stay in bed under the warm covers and forget about the day ahead. We can trick ourselves into believing that if we move, the pain will be worse. In many cases, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Early on in my diagnosis, I would do just that – stay in bed and hope I’d feel better. It didn’t take long for me to learn that the longer I am sedentary, the stiffer my joints get, which in turn, leads to more pain. By exercising, I strengthen the muscles and tissue around my joints, allowing less stress on the inflamed joints and tendons. I now try to exercise every day, even if it is just stretching.
Walking, swimming, and yoga are considered good strengthening exercises with minimal impact. Always be sure to ask your doctor which exercises are best for you and which ones to avoid because every patient is different.
2. Medication non-compliance
Like many with psoriatic arthritis, I also deal with psoriasis. I used to be terrible about telling my dermatologist whether or not I took medication as prescribed. I wouldn’t tell him that I stopped my medication because putting smelly scalp oil on my head and wearing a shower cap for inclusion every other day was not fitting into my lifestyle. After months of not being truthful, I finally gave up trying to hide my non-compliance. My doctor certainly was disappointed, but he wasn’t upset. Together, we found another medication that was easier to for me to take, and the results were pretty good.
If you aren’t taking your medication as prescribed for any reason, then you need to let your doctor know right away. You’re only hurting yourself and delaying proper treatment. I wish I had known this sooner.
3. Not telling your doctor about new symptoms
It is important to share all of your symptoms, no matter how inconsequential you believe they are. My son was on naproxen, an anti-inflammatory medicine, for his psoriatic arthritis. He occasionally got an upset stomach, but since it didn’t seem to last too long, we didn’t think it was necessary to bring up at his doctor visits. This allowed his symptoms to get worse and more frequent, and he ended up with two ulcers. Had we told his doctors sooner, he could have taken omeprazole with the naproxen sooner to avoid the ulcers altogether.
It’s important to note that with psoriatic disease comes a multitude of other simultaneous chronic diseases, also known as comorbidities. Those often associated with psoriatic disease include inflammatory bowel disease, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and uveitis. Be sure to tell your doctor about all of your symptoms. They may not be directly related to your arthritis, but your doctor may find signs of another disease. The earlier the diagnosis and treatment, the better the outcome.
4. Not asking for help
Joints hurting and you can’t get your errands done? Ask for help; you don’t have to go it alone. Your loved ones want to support you and help make living with psoriatic arthritis easier, but often they don’t know how to help. Tell them what you need and what they can do for you. It took me a long time to learn this, but when I finally admitted I couldn’t do it all by myself and asked my family for help, it strengthened my relationships with my mother and my husband. It’s a win-win situation.
5. Giving up trying to find a treatment that really works
Last year, my psoriatic arthritis treatment had plateaued. I remembering thinking I was doing okay, but not great. I still had lots of pain while kickboxing, but I thought to be kickboxing at all was a great accomplishment. I believed I didn’t have a right to ask for better treatment because then I would be selfish and ungrateful for how far I had already come.
I finally asked my doctor, “Is this the best I will be?” He told me that if I wasn’t satisfied, we could change treatment plans. Though he wasn’t excited about taking me off my current plan, he was willing to give it a try because he saw I wanted more. I switched biologic medications, and I’ve been accomplishing so much ever since: climbed sand dunes, walked a half marathon, and even moved heavy furniture two flights of stairs without pain or flaring. Best of all, I now rarely leave my kickboxing classes in pain.
Don’t wait to have an honest discussion with your doctor. If you don’t feel your treatment is working well enough, have the courage to try another. Don’t give up. You don’t have to settle.