What You Shouldn’t Say to Someone With Psoriatic Arthritis (PsA)
11 October 2021
If you’re living with a chronic illness — particularly one that is as complicated as psoriatic arthritis (PsA), you may be all too familiar with how the debilitating pain and fatigue can impact your life. But the additional hurt comes from other people’s unsolicited commentary about the chronic condition and wrong-headed assumptions about your condition, even when they have no idea what they’re talking about.
1.‘But, You Don’t Really Seem Sick!’
Not all medical problems are obvious from the outside. Just because you can’t always spot any noticeable signs of this chronic illness, it does not mean it isn’t there! PsA manifests in symptoms — stiffness, inflammation, tenderness, swelling, itchiness, and fatigue — that are mostly invisible to the people in your life. A person might look good on the outside, but that doesn’t mean he is not suffering internally. When there are no visible signs of a disease, it can be tough for people to understand the magnitude of the condition.
2.‘You Were Fine Yesterday!’
People suffering from PsA will have good days and not so good days. Symptoms of psoriatic arthritis can be like a roller coaster — one minute you may feel fine; the next, you may not have the energy to walk to the kitchen. Each day can be unpredictable for someone with psoriatic arthritis. Additionally, patients may experience periods of flares—periods where the disease is active and symptoms worsen—and periods of low disease activity.
3.‘You Should Not Exercise’
This is a particularly unhelpful thing to say to someone with psoriatic arthritis. This well-intentioned free medical advice is contrary to the truth, as it has been proven that low-impact exercises like swimming and cycling, yoga, etc. can improve joint flexibility for patients living with psoriatic arthritis.
4.‘It’s All In Your Head’
No! The Pain is not in the mind of the beholder. This statement is a myth as well as offensive because what it necessarily implies is that the person with psoriatic arthritis is exaggerating his symptoms. It is important to remember that the condition — and symptoms – are all too real.
5.‘You’re Just Lazy’
Widespread inflammation in the body, common in people with psoriatic arthritis, can cause serious fatigue that has no relation to laziness or lack of initiative. It can make a person feel unrested even after 12 hours of sleep. Just making the effort to perform even the smallest of tasks may seem like running a marathon and can sometimes completely wear out a person. At times the condition can affect multiple joints, producing significant pain and stiffness, swelling, and discomfort that can seem overwhelming.
What Can You Do?
PsA can be a very tricky illness and it can be really hard to understand what living with psoriatic arthritis actually is. If you do know someone who is affected with PsA, remember it isn’t exactly a walk in the park to deal with the condition and its complexities.
1. Lend a helping hand whenever you can. Even small acts of support can mean a lot.
2. Help them stay positive amidst the unique set of challenges and hurdles.
3. Empathize with them when they feel super-exhausted and ask for help opening the toothpaste in the morning.
4. Suggest a more laid-back activity when they cancel plans last minute as their mobility is limited.
5. And most importantly, do NOT offer medical diagnosis and suggestions for treatment unless you’re a certified doctor.