Help! My Fingers Look like Sausages!
My journey with psoriatic disease began with two seemingly unrelated symptoms, scalp flaking and stabbing pain in my little finger. They were symptoms that were each troublesome on their own and there was no reason for me to make the connection between the two.
The summer of 1991 started much like any other. My friends and I had just gone to see Aerosmith in concert. We spent the evening dancing in the pouring rain. Nothing could stop us. How could I have predicted that this summer would end with the diagnosis of an incurable disease that would give me a lifetime of chronic pain?
The perm that triggered psoriasis
Big hair was still important in the early ‘90s, especially to a young adult. My lifeless locks were going to need some chemical assistance to fit into this era. Like I had done for years, I went to the salon for a perm. While my new curls were just what I wanted, something felt different this time. It seemed like this stylist may have left the permanent wave solution on too long. My scalp was burned.
A week or two later, friends would wipe my shoulders off and tell me it looked like I had breadcrumbs in my hair. Even as my scalp should have had time to heal from the burn, I continued to have flakes. This had really become a nuisance.
Then came the finger pain
One night around the same time, I had a sudden sharp, stabbing pain in my little finger. This finger had recently been cut, but the cut wasn’t severe, and there was no indication of infection. In fact, it seemed to be healing just fine. But that night the pain was excruciating. It felt like someone was stabbing my finger with an icepick. I had never felt such intense pain and I’m certain that I screamed in agony.
The pain in that finger continued throughout the night. The daytime was tolerable, but each night after, I felt the same stabbing pain in my little finger. Not long after, I started the feel the same pain in the middle finger of my left hand. I wondered what the h@## was happening to me!
Tiny little sausages
At work the next day, I mentioned my finger pain to the chiropractor I worked for. He knew I was seeing a dermatologist about my psoriasis later that day and made a very strange suggestion. “Tell the doctor about your finger pain.” Why would a dermatologist care about my finger pain? It turns out that this chiropractor had learned about psoriatic arthritis and wanted the dermatologist to confirm his suspicions.
It turns out that my two offending fingers, by this time both so swollen they looked like tiny little sausages attached to my hands, were one of the distinguishing symptoms of psoriatic arthritis. This type of arthritis is called dactylitis and it can appear in fingers and toes. One of the fingers, in only a few weeks, had already started the process of a boutonniere deformity
The journey of psoriatic disease
Over the next three decades, I continued to experience new symptoms and experiment with various treatments as I attempted to adjust to the new normal of living with pain. Fortunately, since that time, there has been so much progress in the field of psoriatic disease.
Many of us are able to find some degree of relief in medications that have been released to the public over the past 20 years. Sadly, these medications will not repair joint damage that has already occurred but getting a timely diagnosis of psoriatic arthritis is the key to preventing damaged joints and leading a healthier life.
If you experience swelling in your fingers and toes, especially if you have a diagnosis or a family history of psoriasis, make an appointment to see your doctor. Ask your doctor if you could have psoriatic arthritis.
Do you have a sleep disorder (eg. insomnia, sleep apnea, RLS) in addition to your PsA?