My journey with Psoriatic Arthritis and Psoriasis began a few years ago now. I had a niggling foot injury and inflammation in my big toe, which doctors thought was gout! I believed them. At this point I had little knowledge of autoimmune illnesses and had no reason to suspect I was one of the 5% of Australians who suffer from one.
The pain and inflammation progressively got worse. At the same time I was under medication for endometrial cancer and PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome). I was managing the pain by self-medicating with voltaren, nurofen and other over-the-counter drugs. Eventually I sought answers. Unfortunately, I had already done significant damage to my stomach lining with these anti-inflammatory drugs. I was admitted to hospital and taken off these drugs, in order to have a colonoscopy and an endoscopy. While I was in hospital the inflammation became worse – to the point where I could no longer get out of a chair, walk, or any of the other activities we take for granted. I stayed in the local hospital for 10 nights at this time.
Various tests were undertaken – biopsies, xrays, I was put on high doses of pain medication – oxycontin, endone as well as prednisolone. At this point we still had no firm answers. Doctors suspected it was rheumatoid arthritis, but without the indicative markers in my blood tests. In July 2012 my father died, and I remember organising and attending his funeral and burial – walking stick in hand.
In September 2012 I was referred to the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne so various experts could investigate further. After staying there a few nights and being subject to a barrage of tests, we had an answer – Psoriatic Arthritis – without the psoriatic skin which is often seen together. I was discharged from hospital with some new drugs (sulfasalazine) and a new course of action.
From here it took about 12 months to gradually improve. This meant reduced inflammation, and gradually weaning off the dreadful drugs I had been put on – including the prednisolone! It also meant putting my university studies on hold, as I wasn’t capable of focusing on content on the painkillers.
The Psoriasis element didn’t rear its ugly head until about 2017. I had suffered some sunburn in the January of 2011. There was a small patch on my right shoulder that never seemed to heal. By 2017 I was getting a little concerned about it (yes I should have probably had it checked sooner – but what with Psoriatic Arthritis, Cancer and subsequent hysterectomy etc etc, it seemed like a minor issue.)
Anyway, my GP didn’t like the look if it and got me scheduled for a biopsy. The next week I had a punch biopsy done – and the results came back as Psoriasis. Not really a surprise given the Psoriatic Arthritis episode that had taken over a couple of years of my early 30s. Unfortunately after the biopsy, the Psoriasis went haywire! It went from being the size of a 5 cent piece to gradually covering large areas of my arms and back.
In March 2017 I was again referred to my friends at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne. The recommended course of action was UV light treatment together with prescription ointments. Unfortunately the UVB was out of the question, with the nearest chambers 90 minutes away from home, and the treatment would be required three times a week. So we persevered with the ointments.
In June 2017 I saw an advertisement in the local newspaper that excited me. WPRS in Warrnambool (30 minutes from home) had just employed a specialist dermatologist, and had installed a UV Cabinet! I was due for my follow up at the Alfred, and once I provided this information to them, they referred me to WPRS – which is where I continue my treatment today.
Unfortunately the Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis provide me with an ongoing battle. My ways of dealing with this are outlined in other blog posts on this website.