Arthritis? At your age?

That’s what most people say when I tell them. 

I was diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis (PSA) in January 2017. After a LOOONG few months of seeing all kinds of doctors, specialists, private and on the NHS. I was sick of rocking up to A&E as a last resort just to get turned away. ‘Go home, elevate your feet for a while you’ll be fine’. 

I wish. 

What sparked the diagnosis? A telephone doctor was just as puzzled as everyone else I had seen in the 6 months before Jan ’17. As a last resort she asked if I happen to suffer from Psoriasis.  Yep. I sure do just check out my head.  Well that sparked a whole load of appointments wth various consultants. I hadn’t managed to get anywhere with the NHS, but luckily I pay for Heath Insurance through my darling workplace.. and so with that I was off to see a consultant specialist. After a few appointments and several consultants later I was fully diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis. 

Psoriatic Arthritis is inflammation in and around your joints, suffered by a third of those 2% of the people who have Psoriasis. (I like to think that we’re kinda special!).

It’s not inflammation of the blood so it’s much harder to diagnose. But what is a big sign is inflammation of your toe or finger joints. In my case – I had two humongous ‘sausage toes’. (Hope you’re not hungry). 

Check out my feet in this shot. I have it moreso in my left foot (see those mahoosive toes, white toenails and swollen foot/ankle) and a classic sausage toe on my right foot fourth toe. 


I also had swelling in my hips and – following the worlds longest MRI scan, the start of PSA in my lower back at the top of my pelvis. Wonderful. 

As much as I was gutted to hear what it was, I was more over the moon that I finally knew what was keeping me up all night in pain, what was stopping me from walking without a limp or in trainers, what was causing so much agony that I was this close to getting signed off work on long-term sick. Not something I think I could ever battle with again mentally as I had a period of around 3-4 months off work in 2013 with back problems. But hey that’s a story for another time! 

In order to get me out of any sort of pain, I was sent off for some ultrasound-guided joint injections.

Now. Words CANNOT describe the pain these caused. I’ve had 5 in total and I cried with each and every one of them. 
Let’s talk treatment…

I’d probably rattle if you shook me. 

I was immediately put on a host of tablets including a daily dosage of omeprazole, naproxen and co-codomol. 

On top of that, I’m on a form of Chemotherapy, Methotrexate. See, it’s an immune system disease so chemo suppresses my immune system to stop / reduce the overproduction of cells – on my joints (win) and on my skin, clearing my psoriasis (double win!). 

My daily dosage on a Chemo Day…


Taking Chemo comes with all of those awful side affects… constant nausea, dizziness, headaches and little to no immune system defence. So I have to be extra careful around poorly people and making sure I don’t get sick. 

I’m now in the brilliant hands of the consultants at Guy’s Hospital in London who have been looking at improved treatments – it’s been almost 9 months on taking the Methotrexate and I’m seeing no real improvement. Even my psoriasis is starting to come back on my sides, my ears and my head. 

I’m due to try an anti-inflammatory biological drug called Humira – it involves injecting myself weekly and is a TNF-inhibiting drug that is supposed to help reduce the effects of severe PSA. I’ve been waiting since June, verryyyy patiently.

Fingers (and sausage toes) crossed…
Joey xxx

It’s a silent ‘P’

Psoriasis.

Pronounced ‘sore-eye-a-sis’. SORE is one word to describe it. Itchy, flaky, niggly, dry, patchy are just a few others. Psoriasis can show in many forms but, in essence, it’s a skin condition where (usually small) scaley patches of dry skin appear on your body.

It’s an immune system disease which causes the over-production of skin cells, suffered by 2% of the population. It’s known to be passed down genetically (my mum also suffered with it once in her younger years) and can be set off by a number of varied triggers from stress to infections and so on.

I was diagnosed with Psoriasis in 2013, aged twenty five. Whilst my mum did also have it, I actually put it down to the amount of stress I was under at the time. I generally don’t deal well with stress – at all. Any sign of it and I’m poorly; it’s like my body finds an excuse to not deal with it. I’ll reflect more on work/life balance and stress in a future post, but for now let’s focus on the Psoriasis.

It can be a nasty little fucker and really affects my self confidence. Sometimes I can get teenie tiny spots of it – perhaps on my elbow or on my side or my back and it doesn’t affect me too much. Places it can be easily hidden.

But every now and again it appears on my head. That might sound like nothing. Easy to cover you might think. Sure. But we’re talking blood, puss (ugh gross, sorry) and flakes of skin all over your head. When you touch it, it’s sore; when you wash it, it stings; when you brush it, it’s irritated. The really bad pics on the left hand side were taken in 2013 when I first got Psoriasis. The one on the right – taken in February of this year (2017) it came back a little, and crept on to my face too.

 

The really annoying thing is that there’s no ‘one treatment suits all’ cure. It really depends on your body and how it reacts. Some people can shift it easily, others not so much. But here’s how I found some of the different treatments out there and what triggers it for me…

  • See a dermatologist – I did try this – along with steroids, steroid creams and shampoos, but nothing seemed to make it budge.
  • Go to your GP – again, for me, steroids and creams didn’t help here, it just seemed to aggrivate it more.
  • Change your shampoo – this soothed it for sure, but didn’t get rid of it. The best shampoos to soothe your scalp are parabenScreen Shot 2017-08-28 at 18.21.29 and sulfate free. You should also make sure that it’s sodium chloride (salt) free, minimising any harsh actions on your scalp.  When your scalp is that sore and has open wounds, scalp-treatment and tar-heavy shampoos (for example T-Gel) will cause pain I can assure you.
    The best shampoo I’ve found to help soothe and reduce irritation is this badboy – Klorane shampoo with Peony. It smells gorge and is just the best.
    It’s not the cheapest (around £8 per bottle available from your chemist or online) but it’s worth it.
  • Reduce your stress levels. Probably the most accurate yet unhelpful piece of advice – I mean, we’d all love to be stress free. But this is my main trigger for psoriasis – hands down. Put me under any form of stress or pressure and you can guarentee I’ll have a little scaly patch somewhere by the end of the week.
  • Reduce your alcohol intake. Alcohol realllyyy affects my skin – from blotchyness to inflammation to spots and now, psoriasis.  I’ve never been the sort of girl to crave a glass of wine in the evening after work – luckily. BUT when I do drink socially I do love my wine… and gin… and prosecco… and – well you get the idea. Give me a couple of days or week where I have social events or engagements and here it goes again, the Psoriasis is back.
  • Be strict on your diet. It’s no surprise that what we eat affects how we function – what we put into our bodies will show on the outside. When I get psoriasis I know I have been eating either too much sugar or bread – or not enough greenage (not sure that’s a word?!). Again, all it takes is a few weeks off-focus and it’s back again.
  • Take a holiday. Now if I could take a week in the sun every time I got a new patch, I’d be broke. Obvs it’s easier said than done. But it really does do the trick (for me at least). Vitamin D is SO good for the skin and getting rid of psoriasis. It of course does wonders for the stress levels too. Get me on that sun lounger asap please!

More recently I have been flake-free which is great (putting it down to my recent holiday to Kefalonia with the mother). However I have started to see a few patches come back again. It can be hard to clear them but by knowing that I can when I put my mind to it, I’m kinda not too bothered. They’ll come and go with stress for me, so I know what I need to do to try to control it. That plus eating some more plant-based food and upping my vitamins and hopefully I’ll be back clear again in no time. Just stay away from my head… pretty pleaseeee.

Joey xxx

Here goes…

I’ve finally done it… I’ve got my own bloomin’ blog! I have been pondering setting one up for so so long. For reasons I’m still not 100% sure. I mean, there are so many I should probably decide on just one (or in reality, I know for a fact I’ll touch on them all):

  • To share my experiences. Are they that interesting? Really? I absolutely doubt it. But I’m almost 100% sure I’m not alone in what i’m going through… so I’m hoping to connect with like-minded people with Psoriatic Arthritis (PSA) or any other chronic disease.
    I also want to share what it’s like to have PSA. I will not be playing the victim, that’s not my style, but if I can help educate others what it’s like and how to understand those of us with PSA and our struggles in day-to-day life – well, that’d be something.
  • Therapy. They say writing down your feelings can help relieve stress and give a sense of calm. I’m not sure that many people will ACTUALLY be interested in what I have to say. But what the hell, it might just help me. Let’s see.
  • Ride the emotional rollercoaster. Some days are great, some are shite. Let’s see where we end up.
  • Fad-tester. I. LOOOVE. A. FAD. And I’ll buy ’em all. From physio equipment to healing crystals, veganism to accupuncture mats and silk pillows. I’m openminded and always on the hunt for more!

My name’s Jo. Joey/JoJo/Joanna (only when I’m in trouble). I’m just about to turn thirty next month and I live with my boyfriend in Crystal Palace London. It’s a bank holiday Monday afternoon, and I’m sat on my rug, LouLou (Louis Walsh once sat on it – don’t ask!), cup of coffee in hand, trying to work out where to start.

Here goes…

Joey xxx

me