Be positive, adapt, look after yourselves and good luck!

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I am a 49 year old man, ex Army,  and have always been very fit and active, keen cyclist (racing mountain bikes and road time trials). I was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis in November 2015.

I now believe that I had it for many years prior to this! About 10 years ago my general health started to go downhill. It started with a pain in my ribcage around the area of my left lung that I just could not get rid of, worse when leaning forward and breathing deeply. My GP thought it may be muscular and referred me for physiotherapy etc. Over the next 2 years my condition worsened with pain in my hands/wrists, knees, lower back, neck, feeling depressed and weight gain.

After many visits to my GP I was told I had an underactive thyroid (after a third opinion!). I was put on levothyroxine and the dose was upped quite rapidly over the following 12 months. My aches and pains started to gradually go and I got back on my bike and everything started to feel good again. Lost the 2 stone I had gained and felt normal!

Fast forward to 2014 and one day my right knee swelled to twice the size of my left after a cycle ride. Very painful to walk on and could not bend it. I used bags of frozen peas to get the swelling down and an elasticated knee support. My GP drained it and injected some steroid and I was ok for another 12 months then it swelled again but the steroid did not work the second time so was referred to an orthopaedic consultant. He investigated the problem with keyhole surgery and took a biopsy of tissue. The test came back as having traces of rheumatoid arthritis.

I was referred on to the rheumatology dept and was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis. It was at this point after being quizzed about any history of pains in hands, feet, back, neck and other joints etc that I realised I had probably had this disease for some years!  I had never thought anything much of the flaky scalp, ears and elbows. My toenails had white patches on them which I thought was age related! The general aches and pains I just assumed was all part of getting old too!

I was prescribed methotrexate which I took in tablet form for 3 months but had a horrible burning sensation in my throat for most of that time, including feeling run down and generally feeling not well. I don't know if it was in my mind, but my psoriasis seemed to get worse as well. I went onto injection form and my throat got even worse so came off it completely and tried doing the Dr Pagano diet whilst waiting to see the consultant again.

Whilst on the diet my psoriasis stopped itching and I wasn't picking flakes of skin out of my ears and off my scalp but it did nothing for the arthritis. I came off it due to the logistics of having to cook something completely different for myself every mealtime. I am convinced it was working though and now get respite from my psoriasis by cutting out the 'nightshades' (tomato, potato, peppers, aubergine, tobacco and paprika) which is a lot more manageable for me.

I am now taking sulfasalazine (4 x 500mg tablets a day) and get on very well with it. I am partial to the occasional glass of wine with a meal and this is no problem with the meds. I exercise virtually every day, swimming, cycling or walking. Don't get me wrong, I have my not so good days but on the whole I cant really complain too much.

I would say to anyone with PsA to keep positive and try and exercise where possible. I find that 25 minutes of gentle swimming is as good as taking a couple of painkillers. I have had periods where my back pain has been that bad I couldn't manage to put my socks on or drive my car and hands and wrists so painful I have not been able to push a door open. I grasp the good days now (of which there are many) and make the most of them while I can. I still cycle but I don't go out to break records anymore!. I have also learned to relax more and listen to my body.

My wife and family are extremely supportive and I am a full time shift worker in engineering and have no plans to retire any time soon.

A big thank you to the rheumatology department of the Royal Derby Hospital for their help and support. An amazing team of dedicated and compassionate people.

Be positive, adapt, look after yourselves and good luck!

Submitted on 17 September 2016 by a 49 old male living in England.

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