A collection of painful sporting injuries turned out to be psoriatic arthrits, explains Edward Morris
Around 15 years ago when I was about 30 years old I developed a patch of psoriasis on my leg followed by pain in my wrists and toes, all of which I completely ignored.
Five years later, I had a patch of poor skin, what I thought was a collection of fairly painful sporting injuries, morning stiffness and tiredness. A nurse I saw about my toe (which was swollen and hurt for no apparent reason) mentioned arthritis straight away, but nobody listened to her and I saw several different specialists before I got in front of a rheumatologist, who was brilliant.
When I was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis I felt hugely relieved as I could finally put a label on what was going on, but also a fair chunk of fear because the only thing I knew about the disease was Dennis Potter in The Singing Detective.
Sulfasalazine eased the symptoms, and then methotrexate was added which eventually put me back to ‘normal’. I am on the injectable form of methotrexate but am still wiped out for 24–48 hours each week. The trade-off is worth it though.
Psoriatic arthritis has affected every area of my life, but by managing it and knowing what to expect it hasn’t stopped me doing anything except play cricket. Work in the garden and around the home has to be done little and often rather than in big bursts like I used to. I keep moving and can still exercise and even do ultramarathons and triathlons. I have had a big flare-up over the last 18 months which did stop me doing that sort of thing but it’s eased and I’m back to ‘normal’ for now.
I have to get plenty of sleep and eat a balanced diet. Some foods seem to make my skin and stiffness worse (minced beef, orange juice, heavily processed foods if eaten regularly, and I can’t stomach spicy foods very well anymore which is down to the methotrexate). And I find the more moving around I do, the less I seize up.
Inflammatory arthritis still isn’t very well understood and I spend a lot of time explaining that I haven’t done anything, this is just how I move sometimes in the morning. And yes, I am still allowed to exercise.
For anyone newly diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis, don’t panic. You are probably already experiencing the really tough times; basics you used do – such as pouring from a jug or walking downstairs – are painful and challenging, which is why you are in front of the doctor. But the treatments and drugs do work and things will get better from now as you learn how to look after yourself differently.
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