Axial spondyloarthritis sufferer shares his story
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Jack already had psoriasis when he was diagnosed – a condition caused by a prolonged period of stress during which both personal and professional tragedies occurred.
On top of this, the psoriasis wasn’t just limited to one part of his body, but had “began to get worse across my entire body”, said Jack.
When he sought treatment, Jack wasn’t initially treated for arthritis, but eczema. However, after he was referred to a dermatologist things began to change.
Jack wrote: “He looked at my fingernails which had developed ridges – the first sign of psoriatic arthritis – and quickly diagnosed me with psoriasis, not eczema, and the beginnings of psoriatic arthritis.”
This wasn’t the end of the journey, and things would only get worse from there for Jack: “It initially felt like a godsend to get a diagnosis, because I could get onto medical treatment that would actually help me and my symptoms would be taken seriously.
“For the next eight months, we began to treat my skin with steroids. Unfortunately, my arthritis continued to progress very quickly – I soon developed swelling in my toes and fingers, and my fingernails started falling out.
“At my worst, I looked like a mangy dog. I was quickly put onto immunosuppressants.”
After three years of living with psoriatic arthritis, Jack was moved onto biologics (medicine derived from biological compounds). Since then, his condition has “stabilised”, but Jack says he is “still in pain and discomfort”.
Although Jack now has a higher quality of life, he says it took him some time to adjust to his new existence. He wrote: “One of the hardest things to adjust to is that for the first few months, you’re continuously grieving for how you used to be.
“Each week or month, it feels like you discover something else that you can’t do any more. You’re constantly reminded that your life is different now. Surprisingly, the lockdown period was quite positive for me.
“I had been so stressed with work before, but the lockdown forced me to slow down a lot. It gave me the space to actually think about myself and my condition.
“I was classed as clinically vulnerable due to my immunosuppressants, so I was literally forced to stay indoors and have some time to myself. It made me realise the damage I was causing myself by living such a high-octane lifestyle.”
Jack concluded: “You have to learn to appreciate your condition. There is currently no cure for arthritis, so you just have to learn to live with it. I had to really work to realise this – I ended up learning holistic meditation and healing, which helped me to slow down and evaluate how I was living.
“That has opened up a lot of doors for me. I’m now a Reiki therapist, trying to help others. It’s a far cry from the sales roles I held in the past!”
What are the main symptoms of psoriatic arthritis?
The main symptoms are skin or scalp psoriasis and pain, stiffness, or swelling in the joints, says Arthritis Action.
While arthritis is incurable, there are some ways to treat the condition. These range from medicinal to non-medicinal means.
Arthritis Action adds: “The treatment of psoriatic arthritis depends on how many joints are affected and how severely. If only one or two small joints are affected, the treatments may be painkillers or anti-inflammatory tablets such as naproxen.
“Joint injections can also be helpful if one or two joints are involved but if many joints are affected, disease-modifying drugs similar to those used for rheumatoid arthritis such as methotrexate and sulfasalazine are often used.
“Biologic drugs such as anti-TNF drugs including etanercept or adalimumab are also used if the arthritis is severe. These drugs can also help with skin psoriasis. As your arthritis improves, drug treatments may be reduced.
“Flares affecting one or two joints are sometimes treated with joint injections.”
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