Knowing My Body Helped Me Get a Psoriatic Arthritis Diagnosis
My diagnosis story is unique compared to most others. I consider myself lucky, although being diagnosed with arthritis in my mid-20s may not seem fortunate. I had been experiencing pain and stiffness for a while, to the point where I had to soak in a bathtub for half an hour and take four ibuprofen pills just to function properly each day. The symptoms became more apparent when I started a job with a long commute and spent most of my time sitting. I would audibly express discomfort when getting out of my car or work chair, and I even screamed once due to intense pain.
At my age, I knew this wasn't normal, so I asked my mother if she thought it was arthritis. She suggested seeing a rheumatologist but mentioned needing a referral. With hopes of obtaining that referral, I went to an urgent care center. I didn't have high expectations, but I just wanted enough to get that magical referral. Surprisingly, the doctor came in, examined my medical history, looked at my physical symptoms, and confidently diagnosed me with psoriatic arthritis. He noticed the psoriasis on my skin, the pitting of my fingernails, and, of course, my pain and stiffness.
I have encountered fellow arthritis patients who went undiagnosed or received the wrong diagnosis for years. Meanwhile, I received a correct diagnosis on my first try at an urgent care facility. This rarity emphasizes the importance of general practitioners being knowledgeable about various conditions since they are often the first to observe patients and their symptoms.
Now armed with a diagnosis and a referral, I learned that getting an appointment with a rheumatologist can be a lengthy process. However, I lucked out yet again. Since the doctor I saw was new to the practice, I only had to wait a couple of weeks instead of a couple of months.
Before and after my rheumatology appointment, I naturally turned to the internet for information. However, this was over 15 years ago, before the advent of social media. The information I found was more clinical in nature, which was helpful, but the included pictures portrayed worst-case scenarios. These images of damaged skin, fingers, and toes were alarming, but I had to remind myself that my own joints and skin did not resemble those extreme cases. Although my skin wasn't in the best condition, I was learning that psoriasis and arthritis often coexist.
My skin issues were extensive, with scales appearing on various parts of my body. When I visited the rheumatologist, he confirmed my condition and promptly started me on a treatment plan once my insurance approved the use of a biologic medication. Interestingly, the severity of my psoriasis actually worked in my favor. Because of it, my doctor was able to expedite my approval for medication and start me on a higher dosage initially, prioritizing my psoriasis over my arthritis.
What have I learned from this experience? I have come to realize that I know my body better than anyone else. If something feels off, it's important to speak up. If a healthcare provider initially dismisses your concerns, don't give up. I knew my pain was not normal, and I persevered in voicing my concerns. This eventually led to my diagnosis and a journey of self-discovery and advocacy. I am more than just a patient; I am on a mission to educate myself about my disease and assist others going through similar struggles.
For those with psoriatic arthritis, staying connected with others who share the condition can be extremely beneficial. I encourage you to join our Facebook Support Group now.