Joel shares his experiences with psoriatic arthritis, from his initial symptoms and being diagnosed, to learning to live with the condition and becoming a patient advocate.
My name is Joel and I have lived with arthritis most of my
life. Starting with a juvenile form when I was 11 years old, Ankylosing
Spondylitis (AS) in my teens and Psoriatic Arthritis (PsA) in my 20’s.
In my early twenties, I started to develop rashes. Fluid-filled
blisters on my hands and soles of my feet and dry, flaky rashes on my forearms
in the winter after playing sport outside. I didn’t think much of it. I put it
down to coming in from the cold and taking a hot shower or long drives when my
hands might be sweaty. Then came the heel pain. I had experienced plantar
fasciitis previously with my AS but this was something else. It was like
walking on broken glass. Every single morning.
I was used to new aches and pains over the years but after a
few months, I experienced chronic fatigue for the first time. I had been tired
in the past with chronic pain from arthritis but this was different. It felt
like I was carrying a small child on my back all day. Every task was difficult.
Tying my shoelaces made me sweat and feel faint and some afternoons at work, I
struggled to keep my eyes open for no obvious reason. Something wasn’t right.
I went back to my Rheumatologist and after a frustrating
6-12 months of ruling things out, I was sent to a dermatologist. I was
literally in the room less than a minute when he said ‘oh, that’s
psoriasis’. ‘Here’s a leaflet and a prescription for some steroid cream but
given your history, it will be psoriatic arthritis. Your Rheumatology team will
pick it up from here’ he said casually. I was stunned, speechless and if
I’m being honest, a little bit angry. I had lost over a year to these issues
for a dermatologist to confirm it with a single glance. At least I had an
answer, I told myself. Yet looking back, it was so obvious what it was.
I had been told as a child that given my age of onset, my
body would likely find new ways to attack itself. The signs were there when
just three years after being diagnosed with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis, I
was told I had Ankylosing Spondylitis at 14 years of age. However, wrongly, I
was always fearful of psoriasis. I remember two things from spending hours in
rheumatology waiting rooms when I was a child – everybody being old compared to
me and the people with psoriasis. As an eleven-year-old, this had bothered me
so when I was told in my 20’s that I had psoriasis, I became depressed. Just as
I’d been conscious of being in a wheelchair as a teenager, I was conscious of my
It took me a couple of years to get over my self-imposed
stigma, to learn to live with PsA. I still feel guilty to this day for how I
felt about my own body and the condition at diagnosis. So now, I am trying to
In 2019 after a decline in my health, I created my blog, JoelvsArthritis.co.uk
to share my experiences, raise awareness and to be an advocate for those with
arthritis and other autoimmune conditions. I wanted to change my behaviour and
stop hiding my disability but also give others a voice. By talking about psoriasis,
we break down the lack of understanding behind the stigma. I am no longer
ashamed of my disability.
If you would like to read more of Joel’s story, visit his
blog and website: joelvsarthritis.co.uk or follow
him on social media @joelvsarthritis.
Read more real-life stories from people living with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.