Wednesday, October 12, 2011

My onset story

This is me, at age nine, just before my onset of Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis.

When I was nine, my parents took me and my sister to South Africa – most of my dad’s family were living there at the time. Because some of the areas we were travelling to had a high risk of malaria, we had to be on anti-malarial drugs as a precaution.

We didn’t know this at the time – and chances are even if we had it wouldn’t have changed anything – but certain anti-malarial drugs can bring out Psoriasis in people who have the gene, but no current symptoms. I say knowing this probably wouldn’t have changed anything because my mother and I didn’t know that we had the Psoriasis gene. Even if we had – the risk of malaria probably would have outweighed the risk of what we initially thought was a minor skin complaint.

When we returned to New Zealand, I fell over and grazed my leg. That in itself wasn’t anything major – except that the wound never healed. Six months later, the area that had been cut had turned into a raised scaly patch. I soon found that any broken skin did the same. Being a reasonable active (and clumsy) nine year old, I was soon covered in similar patches. This was the onset of Psoriasis.

A few months later, I developed excruciating pain in my right thumb joint. As I was at school and spending a lot of time writing, it was assumed I’d developed RSI. After a few weeks of resting it, the pain got a little better. It never quite resolved though.

At the beginning of the next school year, the pain came back worse than ever and this time it wasn’t just in my thumb. All of the joints in my hands and feet were affected, and several of my larger joints were too.

I believe the anti-malarial drugs were the trigger for my Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis. Ironically, these same drugs can be used to successfully treat other types of autoimmune arthritis.

As you can see from the photo, I wasn’t overweight at the time of my onset. Full disclosure – at times during my childhood I was overweight. When I was ten/eleven, I put on a lot of weight after large amounts of steroids for my asthma (those same steroids probably put my arthritis into remission, meaning my early teen years were relatively arthritis-free and I wasn’t diagnosed until age 19.)

I mention this because there has been a lot of debate recently about whether obesity causes autoimmune arthritis. My personal feeling is no, it doesn’t CAUSE autoimmune arthritis. In some cases, it could possibly be a TRIGGER or one of several triggers, but that is not the same thing as it being a CAUSE. Just as, no-one would say anti-malarial drugs cause Psoriatic Arthritis – there would be a lot of unnecessary deaths from malaria if that was the case – but for me, with my particular genetics, the anti-malarials probably were a trigger.

My autoimmune arthritis numbers are 32-9-27.

Today is World Arthritis day. If you’d like to, please feel free to share you onset story in the comments, or comment on your thoughts about the weight-debate.

Or you can post “Your numbers”

Your numbers” are a combination of three numbers we all have:
#of (approximate) weight at time of onset - #of age at onset - #of (approximate or what everyone thinks you are) current age. So mine – I was approximately 32kilos at age of onset, I was 9years old, and I’m 27 now. Weight can be measured in any system used in the country of residence; it’s the formula that is most important. All of us have those three numbers.

If you have facebook or twitter, please post or tweet your numbers – but keep it secret! Don’t publically explain what these numbers are until the end of the day.

You can follow this awareness event Here

Thanks for reading

Little Miss Autoimmune

1 comment:

  1. Obesity can certainly complicate RA or other autoimmune diseases, but there's no proof it's the cause of any of them. In fact, nearly everyone I know who has autoimmune arthritis is thin and always has been.

    I remember having terrible pain in my left thumb about four years before diagnosis and then other pains throughout the years and the doctor never figured out what it was. Makes me wonder..