Psoriatic Arthritis Doesn't Discriminate by Age
"You're so young; it can't possibly be that bad."
I can't tell you the number of times someone told me that after I disclosed my juvenile-onset psoriatic arthritis diagnosis. No matter how much I explain that my condition is caused by my immune system going haywire, people hear the word "arthritis" and associate its severity with age.
Such comments are hurtful as well as problematic.
Psoriatic arthritis doesn't care about your age
Being told I'm not in a lot of pain because of my age is painful because it completely disregards my experience. And it also dismisses the experiences of friends from juvenile arthritis (JA) camp who moved like robots as small children because their JA was so bad but now have much less severe symptoms or are even find themselves in remission.
The reality is, psoriatic arthritis (PsA) doesn't care about your age. Whether your a child, teen, adult, or senior, if it wants to be aggressive, it will be. While it is more common to be diagnosed with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis at certain ages, there are so many more factors to be considered when trying to understand why someone's PsA may be so active or aggressive.
My triggers as a young person
I was hospitalized at eight years old due to a flare that was so intense, I would cry every time someone touched or moved me. My PsA flared horrifically in my neck during practice SATs. I had to miss days of school because I couldn't even turn my head.
The first couple months of my first job are a blur because my pain and fatigue levels were through the roof, to the point I didn't do anything but work, sleep, repeat.
PsA didn't care about my age at those times. Rather, it cared about my triggers. It was angry that I was irritating my hips by playing soccer as a child. It flared up because I was stressed about my test and was staying up late to study. And PsA let me know it wasn't happy about all the new responsibilities of working while being on a treatment that didn't work well.
Age can make things harder
I'm not trying to suggest that age doesn't complicate things. It absolutely can, and I would be lying if I said I'm not concerned about my future. I worry about what my future will look like after dealing with a lifetime of inflammation. I don't know how kind my PsA will be through the years and how joint deterioration from arthritis plus normal aging will treat me.
That said, I do have hope for the future. While there have been plenty of flares, there have also been many periods where I did better. There have even a few remissions. The most important thing someone can do is attempt to control their inflammation and live as healthy as they can. I've been told that taking care of your body while you're young makes aging a little easier.
But those things don't negate the fact that PsA in a young person can still be aggressive and painful. Ask any parent of a child with JA or young adult recently diagnosed - inflammatory arthritis hurts.
Can you exercise with your PsA symptoms?