Busting the myths of psoriatic arthritis

21 December 2020
Paul walking his dog in the snow.

Psoriatic arthritis causes painful joint inflammation and is often linked with the skin condition psoriasis.

There are often misconceptions about psoriatic arthritis. Check out these common myths and find out more about living with psoriatic arthritis from Paul’s story.

1. If you have psoriasis you get psoriatic arthritis.

If you have psoriasis you won’t necessarily get psoriatic arthritis – and vice versa. Almost 1 in 3 people with psoriasis also have psoriatic arthritis.

2. There’s a test for psoriatic arthritis.

Diagnosis is not straightforward. You might need a variety of tests from blood tests to x-rays.

3. Psoriatic arthritis is something old people get.

Psoriatic arthritis can affect any age, not just older adults.

4. Everyone with psoriatic arthritis has the same symptoms.

It can vary from individual to individual, and not everyone can have the same symptoms. For some people the condition may be mild, for others they may have flares, severe symptoms and chronic fatigue.

5. Psoriatic arthritis only impacts on the joints.

It can cause fatigue, swelling of the fingers and toes and an inflammatory eye disease called uveitis. It can also affect tendons and ligaments.

If you have any of the symptoms of psoriatic arthritis, it's important you see a doctor. Read more about the symptoms and treatments for psoriatic arthritis.

Paul’s story

“It was a huge relief to be given an explanation as to what was wrong.”

Paul, 42, was recently diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis after experiencing symptoms for 6 months. Here he shares his story.

“I was diagnosed in July 2019, the pain in my hands and feet started in January.”

Just after Christmas I was rushed into hospital with acute appendicitis and had to spend the next month recuperating.

Shortly after the operation I remember I woke up one morning with an intense pain in my little finger knuckle. One of those pains where you wonder what on earth it was, but you just dismiss it as having slept on it in a funny way.

“The pain in my hand didn’t go away it got worse.”

I’d just moved from London to the countryside and one of the benefits was going out for walks. I was keen to get some movement and exercise again after the operation.

I started to develop discomfort in my left foot, like a small pebble in my shoe. The more I tried to push through it and keep walking the worse it became. One of my toes on that foot had also become swollen.

“The intense pain only increased over time.”

I got to a point where it was increasingly difficult to walk, use my hands, and no-one seemed to have an idea what was wrong.

I spent the next six months bouncing around my doctor, podiatrists, osteopaths, X-rays and MRIs, which didn’t reveal anything other than some soft tissue inflammation.

“It took a while until I was referred to a rheumatologist at the local hospital.”

When I saw him, he took one look at the pitting on my nails, saw that I had ‘sausage toes’ and was pretty certain that it was psoriatic arthritis.

Although I didn’t have psoriasis, the nails and the ‘sausage toes’ alongside inflammation that was now spreading to other parts of my body, as well as x-rays and blood tests, meant he could make this diagnosis.

It took a while to understand and for it to sink in. It was a huge relief to be given an explanation as to what was wrong.

The Rheumatologist put together the jigsaw of odd aches and pains that I’d had over the last decade. The golfer’s elbow and foot pain the year before, as well as the extreme case of plantar fasciitis I’d had for a year in my 30s that left me almost unable to walk.

It also helped me understand the intense fatigue I had experienced over the last 6 months, which in combination with the pain was extremely debilitating. Not understanding why this was happening caused stress and confusion, and had an impact on those around me.

“I’ve learnt having psoriatic arthritis is a journey to find what treatments can work.”

The GP started me on an NSAID, diclofenac, that didn’t seem to have an effect. I’m now using it in combination with sulfasalazine, which is a DMARD (disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug).

Weather, diet and weight may have a huge impact. I’m still exploring what might be causing flare-ups. Different things work for different people, so I’m learning constantly.

“After diagnosis I realised just how ill I’d become.”

Struggling through and trying to continue as normal just wasn’t helping, in fact it was making everything worse.

I took the decision to take 6 months off after my diagnosis, from work, socialising as normal and focused on getting better. This was a major decision and had ramifications, especially around finances and work, but I had to prioritise my health.

Being that ill had an impact on relationships but by learning what was wrong meant my partner could understand and help.

It also stopped me being able to be active as I used to be, I used to do a lot.

It might be a cliché but be kind to yourself. Learn to understand your body and don’t feel pressured to do anything you feel is too much.

“The advice I would give to others includes...”

  • Don’t ignore any odd pains that go on for any length of time!
  • Check family history as many autoimmune conditions are hereditary. My mother has been ill for many years and it turned out rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis runs in my mum’s family.
  • Looking back there has been a pattern to my pain, if you have a list of similar things, please get it looked into. When speaking to busy medical professionals, bring up similar things that have happened in the past.
  • No matter how bad the pain and condition can become, if you can get the right treatment, it can become better and easily manageable.
  • Support from family and friends can be crucial. At the beginning they won’t understand unless they’ve been through it. Information from organisations like Versus Arthritis can help explain and educate.
  • Overall health is so important – diet, weight, and physical activity play a vital role. You need to find out what works.
  • You’re not alone. It can be difficult to adjust but by speaking to others who’ve been through the same can be reassuring and supportive.

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