Ann Amerman, 46, developed psoriasis on her scalp at 8; it came and went for years. Five years ago, the psoriasis began to spread to her elbows, stomach and forearm. Three years ago she developed joint pain, which is often debilitating. A year later she was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis.

Anne's Story:

Psoriasis runs in my family. I got scales on my scalp first when I was 8. That was off and on for more than a decade, but they were always hidden by my hair, so I never treated it with anything other than some horrible brown shampoo. When I was about 21, it went into remission for about five years. Around age 26, it came back gradually, first on my head, then it started to spread.

I got patches in other places and it wasn’t possible to hide them all. But the last three years have been the worst. The psoriasis spread and I started noticing joint pain. I went to a general practitioner at a clinic. He said it was all because I was overweight. I said, "My thumbs hurt because I’m fat?"

I asked if it could be psoriatic arthritis. He said no, because I didn’t have sausage fingers. But I did. I told them I might be overweight, but my hands were always tiny, until now. So I went to a new doctor and he wanted me to see a rheumatologist. I live in Yakima, Wash. The rheumatologist was three hours away in Spokane [and] the thought of taking immune-suppressant drugs scares me. So I take ibuprofen five times a day.

My joint pain, at its worst, hurts to even lie in bed. My toes ache and curl up, it hurts to walk 10 feet to the bathroom. I’ve learned not to ever miss the ibuprofen. I don’t even miss a dose in the middle of the night. I can’t hold things; I drop them constantly. I have a really hard time removing a gas cap from a car. I’m so ticked off because I can't do hardly anything and I’m only 46 years old.

I know I’m at the point now where I’m going to have to get on whatever medicine they tell me. Up until now, I’ve been really good at denial.

Her word of encouragement: Live in reality, not denial, and you can get through this.