3 Things I Wish I Had Known About Psoriatic Arthritis When Diagnosed with Psoriasis
Last updated: May 2023
There should not have been a two-year gap between my psoriasis (Pso) and psoriatic arthritis (PsA) diagnosis. I'd say a lack of knowledge between myself and the diagnosing doctor was to blame for this delay. I often look back and wonder what I would have done differently.
Psoriasis is more than just, well, psoriasis.
However, I had never heard of PsA and Pso. There weren't any commercials. It was never portrayed on television or discussed by anyone in my family who had it. And the little I did know about psoriasis was not enough to understand what I was in for.
With that said, here are three important things I wish I had known about when I was first diagnosed with psoriasis.
Um, how about the potential of getting PsA?
About 30% of people with psoriasis develop psoriatic arthritis, many, not all, within ten years of developing psoriasis. It should be noted that it is not ten years after diagnosis but after the first appearance.
I was diagnosed with PsO in 2001. However, the first time I noticed a rash was around 1995, putting me well within those ten years. Knowing the risk of developing PsA, I could have monitored my body for unusual symptoms. Some common symptoms of PsA include joint pain and swelling, stiffness, and fatigue.
My symptoms had begun to kick into high gear at the time of my psoriasis diagnosis. Before that, they would occasionally interrupt my life but then go away before thinking they were something I should talk to my doctor about.
A warning from my doctor would have prompted me to share that, yes, I was experiencing those symptoms. Instead, I suffered in silence for two more years.
Severity makes no difference
The second thing about PsA that I wish I had known about is that the severity of psoriasis has no impact on whether someone develops PsA or not. No rash means under control or well managed, not healed. This means that even if someone's psoriasis is well controlled, they may still be at risk of developing PsA.
Some people with mild psoriasis may develop severe PsA, while others with severe psoriasis may never develop it. While my body may have been covered from head to toe with psoriasis at my diagnosis, it responded well to topical treatment, and my skin was clear for several years.
My clear skin didn't stop the progression of psoriatic arthritis.
More than a rash!
Years before my Pso diagnosis, I noticed what I would later learn to be some plaque psoriasis on my arm and asked my mom if she had ever seen anything like it. She said it was psoriasis and that she and my grandmother both had it. She also mentioned that she didn't break out often, nor did the rashes annoy her when she did.
Psoriasis is not just a rash but an autoimmune disease that causes an overactive immune system to attack tissues. In psoriasis, that inflammation affects the skin and nails. In psoriatic arthritis, it targets joints. It can also make you very tired.
Had I understood the underlying mechanism of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, I would have been better equipped to identify early symptoms. This knowledge would have prompted me to share what I thought were unrelated symptoms and led to an earlier PsA diagnosis.
The importance of spreading awareness for Pso & PsA
My early cluelessness about psoriatic arthritis led me to advocate and spread awareness. The world has changed since my diagnosis. There is information about psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis on social media, the internet, and television.
Nobody should wait for their condition to progress to debilitating stages before a physician notices it. I hope that by sharing my PsA experience and everything I continue to learn about it, someone else will be diagnosed before significant damage occurs.
You can help too! By sharing articles from this site, you inform family and friends of what you deal with and increase the visibility of a not-always-visible chronic illness. How aware of PsA were you before your diagnosis?
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