Living with PsA 1

I have an auto-immune disease, called psoriatic arthritis, PsA for short. It is similar to rheumatoid arthritis and many other autoimmune diseases you may have heard of (such as MS, Lupus, ankylosing spondylitis, scleroderma, etc.) in that it is not contagious, but involves the body attacking itself. There are many theories why but no definitive answers. There is a genetic component, and many of these diseases run in families. Some researchers suggest stress or major illnesses can trigger an onset, as well.

PsA often (but not always) starts as psoriasis, a skin condition often characterized by large flaky plaques, scabby dry looking spots, found frequently on knees and elbows. In my case, I had psoriasis as a teenager, but it took a different form: I had small plaques on my scalp (nickle sized patches that were like oily greasy scabs, treated with coal tar shampoo), thick calloused feet, and weeping finger cuticles that would never heal. These are all classic PsA forms, too.

I spent a lot of time in the sun, as a child, and my disease then was fairly mild. It went into remission for several decades, only reappearing in my 40's. It started as a skin condition, but worse: this time, I kept getting what looked like a spotty red rash on my arms (which I now know is the guttate form of the disease.) I kept thinking I was allergic to something I was touching , and that was causing the rash. I also had itchy hives on my torso and face. I spent 12 years going from doctor to doctor, seeking a diagnosis for the rash (and ignored all my other health problems: exhaustion, weight gain, kidney disease, swollen knuckles, painful joints, and more.) I had a hysterectomy. I had a dozen treatments for kidney stones. I was told I had rosacea, scleroderma, or lupus. The first rheumatologist I went to told me he had no idea what was wrong with me, and that we should "watch and wait" for what, I don't know. The second rheumatologist I went to diagnosed me instantly from my finger nails,  and was shocked that I'd gone so long without treatment.

I've spent the years since then on one medication then another, trying various diets and other health treatments. My personal list of co-morbidities grows daily - I call it "the disease of the month club." My story is not unusual and I belong to a dozen or more Facebook groups that share symptoms, treatment info, personal experiences, and more - as there are w many diseases out there. So many folk have it worse than I do, and I have it moderately bad. I write this here to share a few things I have found that help.

I don't claim anything is going to sure PsA......just help you feel better while dealing w it.


Eat clean
Various doctors and groups are always touting this or that fad diet. Vegan, gluten-free, paleo...whatever. What I know is that eating clean, that is, eating real food that is minimally processed, that has some resemblance to actual plants or animals, from all the basic food groups / proportions you learned about as a child, is the way to go. I started this a few years back when struggling w kidney disease- turns out that organic protein bars were the culprit - and feel so much better. It's like night and day.....so I just try to eat what I call "90% vegetarian", a mostly mediterranean diet. Fruits and veggies, little bit of dairy, seafood, meat, and healthy fats like olive oil. I've cut way back on sugar, salt, red meat, but treat myself once in awhile. Drink alcohol in moderation. I eat a little  bread once in awhile but only really good high quality bread. Ask yourself: Is it worth the calories? Sometimes, the answer is , "yes." It's gotten to where if I eat a bit of junk-food, I feel sick. Shop the rim of the grocery store, it's cheaper anyways. Teach yourself how to cook the things you like to eat. Make good choices when you eat out: Whataburger has a fabulous grilled chicken cranberry salad. Choose Panera over Taco Bell. Avoid sugary drinks sweetened w corn syrup. If you do this for two weeks, I promise you will feel better and even looking or smelling junk-food will gross you out.

Pay attention to what you put on your body, as well as in it
PsA is a skin disease as well as a joint disease, and your skin is your largest organ, so it makes sense that you should be careful what you feed it. For years before I was officially diagnosed by a dr., I used organic soaps, lotions, shampoo, makeup, cleaning products, etc bc regular commercial grocery store brands made my skin itch. Experiment with different brands to find what works for you; expense is not a guarantee of effectiveness. Many people swear by Aveno, Pears glycerin soap, and many unscented mass market products. Some people hate Dove soap, but I like it. Even high end brands like Kiehls, although it smells divine, dries my skin out. Mrs Myers is my go-to pump soap and cleaners. I can't really tolerate body care products other than Ahava or Korres, both of which I discovered during a makeover at Ulta - the lady dolling me up said my skin was too dry, and I needed to try these brands. Both make wonderful body wash products that soothe my inflammed skin. I also soak in Ahava mineral salts and wipe off makeup with the ultra gentle non-alcoholic Korres milk protein wipes. I hope these products never go away. Ulta stopped carrying these so I buy them now on amazon or ebay.

Other irritants
I have gradually swapped out, over time, synthetic clothing and household linens/fabrics for more natural brands or items. You spend 1/4 of your life asleep, and commercially raised cotton is one of the most heavily pesticide use products on the planet. West Elm sells organic cotton sheets and bedding at reasonable prices.....I figure, why not? I emptied my house of plastic laminate due to VOCs, and I wish I could do the same at work.

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