10 Things You Should Know About Autoimmune Disease

I started the symptoms of psoriatic arthritis at the age of 25. I didn’t get a proper diagnosis until 25 years later. I knew something was wrong with me, but I didn’t have a name for it and I couldn’t convince the doctors that this psoriatic disease wasn’t all in my head.

Trust me, it is so hard to get a doctor to see or feel what I was going through. I could have pain so bad in my shoulders and hands and I would be given aspirin and told to get over it.

Autoimmune? Yes. Diagnosis? No.

People thought I was faking it or trying to get out of work or school. Not one person was able to put 2 and 2 together. When I started having symptoms, I had been diagnosed with psoriasis for 20 years.

Psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis are actually caused by an overactive immune system. But how can your immune system – which is built to keep you healthy – be the cause of illness? The explanation can be found in the word itself. Autoimmunity occurs when the immune system automatically launches an inflammatory response against your own body.

I have put together a list of ten things I was going through before I was diagnosed with another autoimmune disease, psoriatic arthritis.

  1. My biggest was the constant pain in my shoulders and hands and crying myself to sleep. If I knew what I know now. I would have been diagnosed on my first office visit.
  2. I was always tired to the point where I thought I was bipolar. I couldn’t understand why my friends and family were always having fun and I just wanted to sleep.
  3. Psoriatic arthritis can be hard to diagnose because it can come in many ways. I have found that it is a multi-symptom disease affecting different parts of our body and mimicking other diseases as well. I always hurt in different places.
  4. Because this is an invisible illness; I hear so much that I don’t look sick. It’s amazing how wearing nice clothes, shoes, have your hair done and smile that people look at you cross-eyed. I have been a pro at hiding my true feelings for over 50 years now.
  5. I wish, I wish, I wish that I had told my hundreds of doctors that I know my body and I know something is wrong with me; so fix it.
  6. Brain fog – I think people thought I was slow because I could start talking and literally forget what I was talking about.  There were days I would get confused and be so disorganized. It’s funny that every job I get it says you need to be able to pay attention to detail and be organized.
  7. Someone told me years ago; it’s just arthritis. It’s more than that, it’s missing time from school or work. It’s going to the doctor every week. It’s taking medication when you can get it. It’s dealing with swollen joints and everyday pain.
  8. I was diagnosed with psoriasis at age 5 and had signs of psoriatic arthritis at age 25. My advice to young adults today is- never give up the fight. It does get better. I am 61 and living my best life with several diseases. I felt alone all the time because no one understood, but there are us that do get it.
  9. Arthritis is not just for older people. Children can get it too. This disease does not care about your age, sex or race.
  10. Psoriatic arthritis affects more than just your joints. You can have fatigue, brain fog, sluggishness, and mental illness. The doctors don’t even recognize these signs.

Looking to the future of psoriatic disease

PsA has been intriguing to me for years now. We have our good and bad days. Some people have severe damage while others don’t. It affects us in so many ways.

We have not found a cure for this yet, but research has truly improved. Scientists are continuing to study the complex relationship between the immune system and psoriatic disease. I remember 40 years ago not ever hearing the word psoriatic arthritis, but now I hear it at least once a day on TV.

I’m hoping that with research being done on people’s genes and immune systems that they will one day be able to find a treatment that is safe and effective. A cure is on the horizon; but not yet.

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