Karl Zimmer, 40, was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis at 35, but
his joints began swelling when he was in his mid 20s. He self-medicated with up to 20 aspirin per day. Eventually he developed psoriasis, mild at first, on his scalp, around his ears, then on his shin and ankles.
I wrestled and played football in college so when I had achy joints and swelling, I thought it was just the result of that. I didn’t have health insurance at the time, so I didn’t go to the doctor. I just took lots of aspirin every day. When I started getting psoriasis, I finally went to a general practitioner. She put me in a gown and got me on the table and said right away, “You have an acute, classic case of psoriatic arthritis.” Dr. [Christopher] Ritchlin, my rheumatologist, would later tell me that I was the perfect specimen of psoriatic arthritis.
My insurance company … made me exhaust every other effort before Dr. Ritchlin could put me on Enbrel. I was on Celebrex for a couple of months, then Mobic, then Vioxx, then sulfasalazine. Finally, they put me on Enbrel and within two days my pitted nails cleared up and my skin got better. Within two weeks, almost all of my pain was gone. I could jump up in the air. I took steps two at a time. I was back to playing softball and running.
Before Enbrel, it would take 45 minutes to shower and get dressed, and that was in extreme pain. I was almost out of hope.
My insurance company has made me go off Enbrel. The psoriasis is back on my eyebrows and the pain is coming back. I’m back up to five Aleve every morning. I’m trying to do whatever it takes to get back on the medicine that worked. It is very expensive and my insurance company doesn’t think I should be on it for extended periods of time, even though my doctor does.
His word of encouragement: With the right medicine, you can get better.