On average, one in three people with psoriasis will develop psoriatic arthritis—a chronic, inflammatory condition that affects the skin and the joints. While the exact cause is unknown, the two linked conditions are believed to start with excess inflammation inside the body.
Diane, a psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis advocate, began to develop symptoms at a young age. She was only 25 when her joint pain, swelling and stiffness became unbearable. “My knees and shoulders bothered me the most,” she says. “There were times when I couldn’t even comb my hair and just walking to the bathroom felt like I went for a run. My joints were painful and swollen, which caused widespread discomfort.”
Yet, doctors dismissed her discomfort, telling her that she was too young to be in that much pain. This may seem surprising, but Diane is not alone in this journey. In fact, the Journal of Pain states that medical professionals tend to underestimate and undertreat women’s pain by recommending psychological treatment rather than pain-relief. A delay between symptom onset and a proper psoriatic arthritis diagnosis is also common. A recent study by the Mayo Clinic found that more than half of the people with psoriatic arthritis wait more than two years for the right diagnosis.
Luckily, Diane persisted in her search for the correct diagnosis, and 25 years later, it paid off. “When the doctor said, ‘You have psoriatic arthritis,’ I felt relief,” Diane says. “I thought I had hit the lottery that someone finally believed me and my pain.”
Dr. Elyse Love, a New York-based dermatologist, says asking the right questions at a dermatologist appointment is crucial to receiving a proper psoriatic arthritis diagnosis. “The difference between psoriasis on the skin versus joint pain is that we only know that it’s happening if we ask or if the patient brings it up themselves,” says Dr. Love. “Talking to your physician about it is one of the main ways that we become aware that you’re having joint pain.”
While it can be difficult to speak up about your pain, Diane encourages people who may have psoriatic arthritis to feel empowered to advocate for their health. “Something I’ve worked on is believing in myself and prioritizing my needs. We know our bodies better than anyone.”
Diane offers this advice – “Learn all you can about your illness and ask questions about what you have learned. Do your own research at home and come to the doctor prepared. Always have a list of questions.”
Prepare for your next dermatologist appointment by answering the below questions:
– Do you frequently have pain, stiffness, or swelling in or around your joints?
– What joints are impacted – knees, elbows, wrists, ankles, fingers, or toes?
– When did you first start experiencing joint pain?
– On a scale of 1-10, how severe is your joint pain?
– Are your joints especially stiff for 30 minutes or more when you wake up in the morning?
– Have you been diagnosed with psoriasis? Or do you sometimes have patches of itchy, thick, red, flaky or scaly skin?
– Have you ever talked with a dermatologist about your joint symptoms?
While starting a conversation with your physician can seem daunting, Diane reminds others experiencing psoriatic arthritis symptoms that they are not alone. She says, “Asking your dermatologist the right questions will help to not only get the right diagnosis, but also the proper care you deserve and need.”
Dr. Love agrees, adding, “It’s absolutely essential that you find a physician that understands you, listens to you and takes your concerns as seriously as you do.”
To learn more about how a dermatologist can help you make the connection between your skin and joint symptoms, visit Psoriasis.com here.
This article was created by SheKnows for AbbVie.