Living with Arthritis – A Guest Post by the Gorgeous and Amazingly Talented, Sarah.
Before we get into the post, I just wanted to say an absolutely MASSIVE thank you to Sarah from A Woman’s Confidence for sharing this post and for allowing my site to be the first person she guests featured on. Please go check out Sarah’s blog, it’s amazing, insightful and full of amazing product reviews! (Obviously, read this post first!) So, without further ado, please leave a lot of love and warm wishes for Sarah. I’ll also link her social’s at the end of her blog post.
Take care and stay safe,
Hey to everyone over here at Northern Irish Girl Online, it’s nice to meet you all. My name is Sarah and this is my first ever guest blog post, which is very exciting!
Nicole talks a lot about mental health, so I thought I’d share something about my health on this awesome blog. I never usually write about my health as my blog (A Woman’s Confidence) is a beauty, skincare and lifestyle blog, so this is pretty new to me.
I wanted to share my experiences of psoriatic arthritis with you all, from when I first experienced problems at 19 to being 23 and on different medication and accepting the fact that I do have this debilitating disease.
It’s been a difficult journey for me and one that many other people share. But by talking about it, you reach out to new people who can help you, give advice, support you and share their experiences too.
It’s 2014, I’m in my second year of uni and life is great. I’m pretty active too. I’m walking pretty much everywhere because I don’t have a car and I hate buses, I’m going to the gym 3-4 times a week, and I’m working part-time at Subway, which means I’m on my feet quite a lot.
I’m working one day and my left knee feels a bit weird. Movement feels a bit harder and bending feels more tasking than usual, but nothing major. I can’t place what it is, though, as I hadn’t overdone it the day before.
But this continues for the next few days. A strange, almost pulling sensation, when I bent down or had to lift anything heavy. I still don’t think much of it and think to myself I’ll go, doctors, if it gets any worse.
And it does get worse. A lot worse. I’m at work one day and I’m suddenly unable to move it. It swells up and freezes out of nowhere. I sit down, put ice on it and wonder to myself what the hell is going on.
However, after about half an hour when it still isn’t any better and I can’t move it or put any weight on it, I ring Dad to pick me up and take me to the hospital.
The problem with my knee stays the same for about two weeks – which is a massive struggle for me – and then goes away randomly and doesn’t come back.
Within this time, I’m referred to different people at the hospital who try and assess my situation. But by the time the appointments come around, the problem in my left knee has seemingly vanished. Everything is back to normal and there isn’t really much to physically see.
It’s frustrating because I did experience some problems but nobody can see it, which is completely fair enough, but it made making a diagnosis very difficult. My blood tests were clear, my MRI scan didn’t show anything, and I was in no pain or discomfort.
It’s suggested to me that I have arthritis because of the family history and the symptoms I describe to the professionals are the same. So, I’m offered keyhole surgery and a biopsy to look inside my knee, get a sample, and determine what it is.
But this would leave me recovering for 8 weeks in the middle of deadlines, which to me just didn’t seem like a viable option as I couldn’t redo the coursework. Plus, nothing was actually causing me any problems at this time, so it didn’t seem like a risk worth taking.
This left me without a diagnosis, which was annoying, but I was completely fine again. I hoped it was just some sort of unexplainable issue that would stay away.
How foolish of me…
It’s February now and I’m 21 doing my Masters. One day, I wake up and I feel that strange, nagging sensation that I’d felt 2 and a half years ago. As the feeling was so random and odd, I knew that it was exactly what I’d experienced back then. I just didn’t realise how bad it would get.
It gets to how it was before, I’m limping about, struggling to move as my knee is playing up and feels stiff, it’s swollen, and putting weight on it was near impossible. But this time, it’s actually painful.
The pain gets worse too, along with the swelling. My knee is now big, spongey and you can’t actually see the shape of my kneecap at all. It gets stiffer as well, especially in the mornings. All while my mobility is decreasing because I physically can’t bend it or straighten my leg much at all, definitely not without pain.
I remember feeling that it couldn’t get much worse and this time it was lasting months. But it continues to go downhill.
There were mornings, maybe around four months in, where I would wake up crying because the pain was excruciating. At its worst, I pretty much couldn’t get out of bed and getting downstairs took me ages. Probably a minute or two.
It was horrible. It didn’t stay excruciating for too long, thankfully. But it was always very painful and the mobility didn’t come back, bending or straightening was completely restricted, sometimes impossible, I wasn’t sleeping properly because I could never get comfortable, and the swelling stayed too.
At this time, I was in and out of the hospital with countless appointments, blood tests, an MRI scan, speaking to different people. It was a nightmare because while I wasn’t diagnosed, nothing was being sorted.
11 months later and I finally get a diagnosis. The rheumatologist tells me it’s psoriatic arthritis, but I just don’t have any of the psoriasis symptoms. At the time I was diagnosed, the arthritis was in both my knees and my left ankle.
Psoriatic arthritis is a type of inflammatory arthritis and an autoimmune disease. It’s also a long-term and degenerative condition.
There is no cure for arthritis, but there are effective treatments available which help to prevent spreading, slow the disease down and reduce its harshness.
The outlook for psoriatic arthritis varies, some people only ever have issues in one joint and the pain isn’t too bad, whereas other people have it effect many of their joints and get lots of flare-ups (a period where the arthritis is bad in a particular joint) and pain. So, it’s different from person to person.
Symptoms of the disease include stiffness, swelling, pain and discomfort, psoriasis and achy joints. For me, I particularly experience a lot of neck and backache and obviously the issues in the affected joints.
After multiple check-ups and appointments, I’m now on two different types of medication: methotrexate and sulfasalazine. Both of which take around 3 months to build up in your system and feel the benefits.
Methotrexate is the harsher and stronger drug of the two, which essentially makes it a more effective treatment as well. However, methotrexate can affect your liver, you’re not supposed to drink alcohol with it or you’re told to stick to the daily guidelines, you can’t be pregnant on the drug and have to come off 3 months beforehand if you’re planning on pregnancy, and it weakens your immune system.
There can be other side effects as well, such as nausea, vomiting, dizziness, headaches, being the main ones. As the drug can affect your liver, you have to take regular blood tests to monitor the situation too. Honestly, this is one of the worst bits for me because I hate blood tests. Although, since having them fortnightly and then monthly, I’ve definitely got used to them a lot more!
The methotrexate has helped me so much, but I still experience stiffness, a lack of mobility, some swelling, and sometimes a bit of discomfort.
Sulfasalazine was introduced as a complementary, secondary drug to help reduce the effects of the disease.
I’ve only been taking it for about a month now, so I’m yet to see the effects. This drug has mostly similar side effects to methotrexate, as well as can cause liver problems and weakens your immune system, but it isn’t so harsh, so the pregnancy and alcohol guidelines don’t apply.
However, it can cause your white blood cell count to drop, so regular blood tests are also necessary with this drug.
Alongside sulfasalazine and methotrexate, I have to take folic acid once a week. But this is a supplement which helps boost your immune system and take off the edge of the drugs’ effects.
I’ve been very lucky and have experienced very little problems with either of the drugs, which is wonderful.
Where I’m at now with the psoriatic arthritis is a place of a lot more positivity. Thanks to the drugs I’m on, I’ve gained a lot of mobility, the swelling has gone down a lot, there’s rarely any pain, my joints aren’t as stiff as they used to be, I ache less, I’m not needing to sleep for ages anymore, I can actually walk again properly.
Things still aren’t 100%, don’t get me wrong. I’m still not as mobile and that’s particularly apparent with bending or strenuous activities. If I ever do weight training or exercise, I can feel it in my joints then. I’m definitely a lot weaker than I used to be.
But, all in all, I manage and I feel like I manage very well under the circumstances, which is all I could ever ask for.
I spent so long being fed up with the pain, not being able to get around and feeling – as well as being – disabled. The looks I’d get; the “I thought arthritis was an old people thing” comments; the lack of sleep from the pain; the struggling to get out of bed, let alone anywhere else; the feeling like I was in a body that wasn’t mine and one I had no control over.
I’m very aware that I still have the disease and as much as that doesn’t feel great, I feel I’ve come to a place of acceptance now. I’m really happy with every other aspect of my life and my condition has improved so much, which I couldn’t be happier about.
In a weird way, it has taught me to appreciate things. Appreciate what’s truly an issue in life and what’s not, I’ve learned to be less complainy (still complainy, just not as much), I’ve more empathetic now and, probably the biggest lesson I’ve learned is to never give up and pick yourself back up.
I’m proud of myself for pushing myself to get out of bed when I had to limp, in pain every day, and go to work and face the world. It was extremely difficult, sometimes it felt impossible, but I did it. I refused to become the disease and stay inside all day feeling sorry for myself.
And I would say that’s the best thing I could’ve done.
So, I would urge anyone who experiences any other health problems and feels like they can’t push on any further to keep going. There are going to be times, many, many times, where you feel defeated and like you don’t deserve to feel the way you do. And you don’t deserve it. But, nonetheless, it’s the hand you’ve been dealt and the only person who can do anything about the way you view your situation and how you handle it is you.
So, show yourself that you are strong and that you can push through the hardest times. Then you’ll look back at your situation and feel proud.
How amazing was this post? It certainly taught me a tonne about Arthritis that I wasn’t aware of and something I am going to be so mindful of in the future. Please see below for Sarah’s social’s, I encourage you to follow her on all her social media, get on her blog and show her some love. The blog is linked above, but I have also included it below. N xox