I have asked myself this question for the past 10 years; why did it take 25 years to get the proper diagnosis for my disease? First off, what is psoriatic arthritis? If I had to explain it, I would say it is a form of arthritis that causes pain, swelling, and stiffness in your joints. It is also an autoimmune disease.
Is it psoriatic arthritis or another autoimmune disease?
I always thought that you had to have psoriasis to have psoriatic arthritis. It was years later that I found out that this was not true. I’ve learned that you can get other types of arthritis, like rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis, which mimic psoriatic arthritis. You must find a good doctor to define which one you have.
Some characteristics of psoriatic arthritis are the pain and swelling in the joints. Not all, but many people have psoriasis too. I had nail psoriasis when I was younger which clear up over the years. We have found out in recent years that genetics play a big part in this puzzle. I remember telling doctors back in the day about the pain I was having in my toes and fingers and how they were always swelling. I would complain of the joint pain, but no one put two and two together that having psoriasis was linked to having psoriasis arthritis.
My first visit to the rheumatologist
I remember my first visits to my rheumatologist. He did x-rays, MRI, he did an ESR which is a blood test and a physical exam. His final result was that I had narrowing of space inside my joints. I’m still not sure what that means, but I did have a diagnosis and this hasn’t all been in my head for the past 25 years. My doctor informed me that psoriatic arthritis can be mild, moderate, or severe. I never did find out where I fit in. At first, I was seeing him every three months but now see him every six months. This disease can cause structural damage to the joints even if your pain is mild. Try and see your doctor as often as he wants you too. The key to staying healthy and treating the symptoms of this disease is to get the proper treatment.
We need to do more research
There is still so much research to be done, but we do know that our T-cells are responsible for our symptoms. We know that these cells fight off infections. We don’t know why T cells are active with us with psoriasis which causes us to get plaques and when they lodge in the joints they cause the arthritis.
What can you do to help you feel better? Our main goal is to get that inflammation under control so you won’t feel so much pain. Talk to your doctor about what is best for you. In the past, I have been on anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids, creams, gels, methotrexate, light treatments, and now on a biologics. I have noticed that after having psoriasis for over 50 years and psoriatic arthritis for 25 years that I’m in pain every day even with the medications that I am on.
I honestly don’t know what the future holds for me. My current treatment is very expensive and carry side effects. We have come a long way in 50 years. Psoriasis is not news worthy as some other diseases, but we are getting more funding than in past years. There are new treatments coming down the pipeline that are close to FDA approval. This should bring a smile to millions of people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. I know I am smiling.
My ultimate goal is to help find a cure for this disease.