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A wife's view

With hindsight, the origins of my husband’s psoriatic arthritis goes back many years. He tells me that he had psoriasis as a child, but I wasn't around then, and it had long cleared when I met him. Both his father and his paternal grand-father suffered from arthritis. The latter's starting in his mid-40s. I don't know what type of arthritis they had.

During the early years of our marriage my husband appeared to be perfectly healthy, except for one thing - about three or four times a year he would have violent bilious attacks, usually during the night. It was clearly not caused by food poisoning, as more often than not he had eaten nothing that I hadn't during the preceding day. A barium meal and X-rays revealed nothing amiss. So we just had to put up with it.

About 15 years ago. I began to visit an acupuncturist with the aim of alleviating my severe tinnitus. The treatment eased the tinnitus to a very great extent and also perked me up amazingly - I hadn't felt so well for years, and the resulting energetic approach to life highlighted the fact that my husband, too, was perhaps a little lethargic.

As a result he consulted the acupuncturist who achieved similar results. We both continued to have treatment at regular intervals (roughly every six to eight weeks) for the next 14 years. One benefit of the treatment for my husband was that his bilious attacks ceased, and he suffered far less from indigestion than before.

We were, during that period playing squash to an amateurish standard once a week. The first sign of my husband’s arthritis came seven years ago when he was 41, and he complained that his right wrist was painful. This wrist was injured at the age of 8 when he was participating in a sack race at school. The pain persisted, he was forced to give up playing squash and after 6 weeks he visited his G.P. who told him to go away.

We weren't satisfied with this; in view of the fact that my husband had visited the G.P. only once in 10 years we thought it was obvious that he was not given to fussing and that the problem was serious. He therefore consulted another doctor in the practice. who was much more sympathetic (he also played squash) and was sent for an X-ray. This revealed nothing amiss. So my husband was sent to have physiotherapy, was given a wrist support and told to see how things went for a few months.

Six months later the wrist was no better, my husband revisited the sympathetic doctor (by this time we had both transferred to his list) and he was referred to a specialist in physical medicine. Diagnosis was then very swift; the specialist asked my husband if he had scaly patches on knees or elbows, to which he replied no, but he had an itchy patch on his head which had been there about a year. Thus, we found out the problem, and were told that all he could be offered were anti-inflammatory drugs.

So things went for four years or so, the acupuncture continued, my husband’s psoriasis spread further over his scalp and the arthritis spread to most other joints. A year ago he couldn't get his shoes on without a shoe-horn and, on a bad day, could barely walk. His shoulders deteriorated to the extent that he could not drive a manual car and he changed to one with power- assisted steering, automatic gears and electric windows.

The acupuncturist was deeply concerned; he consulted colleagues, some of whom were using chinese herbal medicine in conjunction with acupuncture. My husband tried two separate medicines in succession; both made the arthritis very much worse at once and my husband took some while to recover from each.

We then wondered if something ingested could worsen his condition. Was it perhaps caused by something he was eating or drinking; i.e. a food allergy, we were already aware that hot dairy products such as cream or cheese would make John faint and shivery; the last time he inadvertently ate some soup containing cream, he collapsed and had to be laid out on our friends' settee.

The sympathetic G.P. came to the rescue again, he is the sort of person who always "knows a man who can'" He referred my husband to a doctor who, although being a conventionally qualified G.P., specialises in allergy testing and homoeopathy. The testing was interesting; it is done electronically by skin electrical activity; incidentally utilising acupuncture points!

My husband was given a list of foods to avoid, all cow-dairy products (goats' milk and cheese are fine for him, so we changed to those, red meats, citrus fruits, tomatoes and some other vegetables. In the main, this reads very like the Margaret Hills diet, doesn't it, except that he isn't allowed to have lamb. We wonder if these allergies caused his earlier digestive problems. Fortunately, he is not allergic to tea, coffee or alcohol!

Homoeopathic medicine was also prescribed for my husband to take daily. This we feel is more acceptable than using conventional drugs over a long period.

We set to follow the diet strictly, my husband has had three subsequent visits to the homoeopath. The medicine has been changed in response to my husband progress report, and the doctor's manner has always been very reassuring as he is confident of success with just the right treatment. Although his services are not available on the N.H.S, he is registered with various health insurance companies and so his moderate fees are recoverable.

Well, my husband has had his ups and downs, but after nine months of the diet and treatment his psoriasis was still just as wide-spread but very much milder - I have cut his hair for twenty-two years, so I know exactly how it's doing. The arthritis, too, is less vicious; he was walking in his old, easy way and I quite forgot he had a problem on our weekend afternoon walks. Despite the recent cold, damp weather which has affected him adversely, we hope that the improvement will continue.

Over the last year my husband has embarked on learning to play the organ - we have one at home that I play. He has never learned the piano so he had to start from scratch, but I am sure it has done him a world of good in keeping his hands and wrists moving and in exercising his feet and ankle. Not only that, but my husband has had to curtail other hobbies besides squash - we had an old car which we had to sell as he could no longer drive it, let alone tinker with it and take the engine etc. out as he used to! - so it has been good for him mentally to have a stiff challenge in the form of an enjoyable hobby.

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