The man’s arthritis is so bad that his hair and toenails are falling out

Jack Gaskin shows off his hands and hair loss

Psoriatic arthritis causes affected joints to become swollen, stiff, and painful. (Image: Jack Gaskin)

In a life-changing battle with arthritis, a London man’s hair was falling out and his nails were starting to fall off.

Jack Gaskin, 39, was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis at the age of 33.

He shared his harrowing story amid news that some sufferers are waiting years to be diagnosed.

Leading charity Arthritis Action has called for more to be done to prioritize arthritis and support those living with it.

Psoriatic arthritis typically causes affected joints, causing them to become swollen, stiff, and painful.

It affects people with the skin condition psoriasis and is a long-term condition that can progressively get worse.

If it is severe, there is a risk that the joints will be permanently damaged or deformed and surgery may be required.

Jack’s condition was so bad that his fingernails and toenails began to fall off, causing great mental and physical distress.

Jack's swollen fingers are missing nails

Jack’s hair and fingernails fell out and his fingers and toes started to swell (Image: Jack Gaskin)

Jack, from London, told “I had closed a shop the same week I broke up.

“The stress of everything just piled up and things started to go wrong.

“It mostly affected my face and head first, but then spread pretty much everywhere else.

“All my hair started falling out, looking back I looked like a mangy dog.”

Jack tried to figure out what was going on and went to the doctor who misdiagnosed him as having eczema.

Then over the next few months his condition worsened and his fingernails and toenails began to fall off.

Within six months he had developed arthritis in his knees before spreading to most of his other joints.

His fingers also began to swell as his immune system struggled in his condition.

Jack's hair and scalp

The 39-year-old was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis in 2016 (Image: Jack Gaskin)

“Every month there was a new challenge,” he said.

“It just all piled on me and got worse and worse.”

Eventually he received a diagnosis amid months of various medications and treatments to treat his condition.

His hair has grown back now and he’s doing much better, but flare-ups can still happen at any moment.

“There is no cure for pscoriatic arthritis, all you can do is keep it at bay.

“I have to get used to that. I haven’t used shampoo or soap for six years because it would cause problems.”

Jack’s experience of working can be challenging – he’s been forced to leave four different positions because his employers didn’t want to take his condition into account.

Jack Gaskin

Jack is much better now but still suffers from bouts that sap his energy (Pic: Jack Gaskin)

Eventually he turned to Reiki healing to try to relieve some of his stress. He has since trained himself as a Reiki healer and has other part-time jobs during the week.

Flare-ups can affect his work in the short-term, but Jack says he’d rather not turn to disability services.

He said: “It’s always that gray area.

“When you’re on welfare, it can be lonely and isolating, and you still may not have enough to live on.

“But full-time work can cause physical as well as mental damage.”

Jack shared his story amid a new report revealing the true impact the disease can have on people.

New research from Arthritis Action shows how people live with daily pain, while those in economically disadvantaged areas are more likely to be affected longer, be forced to stop working and less likely to receive support.

With the NHS strained more than ever, the charity is pushing to do more to prioritize arthritis and support the people living with it.

Jack Gaskin in the pub

The Londoner has shared his story amid new research from Arthritis Action (Image: Jack Gaskin)

The road to an arthritis diagnosis can be a long one. Almost one in four (23%) ages 25 to 65 living with arthritis say they had pain or discomfort for over five years before finally being diagnosed.

And this is more often the case for people in lower socioeconomic groups.

More than a quarter of those surveyed had had arthritis pain for more than five years, compared with 19% of those in the highest socioeconomic groups.

The vast majority (84%) of people reported struggling with at least one daily activity at worst.

Arthritis also has a detrimental effect on people’s working lives, as Jack explained.

Data from the Arthritis Campaign

The charity’s findings revealed the true delay in people’s diagnosis (Image: Arthritis Action)

Just under half (42%) of those in lower socioeconomic groups said they have difficulty working, with 26% having to give up work altogether.

This contrasts with just 9% of those in the highest socioeconomic groups.

Those in lower socioeconomic groups are also more likely to suffer from mental health problems, with over a quarter reporting poor mental health in the past four weeks, compared with 17% of those at the higher end of the scale.

Unfortunately, a quarter of people in the lowest socioeconomic groups admit to not seeking help until their arthritis has started affecting more than their health.

Over two-thirds of people said they lack information or support related to their arthritis, and while 42% believe clinical appointments are the most helpful form of support, one-third say they do not have adequate access to it.

Shantel Irwin

Shantel wants people to be better supported on their diagnostic journey (Image: James Tye)

Shantel Irwin, CEO of Arthritis Action, commented: “It is heartbreaking to see that in the midst of a cost of living crisis, those in more disadvantaged groups have been hit hardest.

“The physical and mental pain people are experiencing is debilitating and with an overwhelmed NHS they are not receiving adequate support to manage their condition on their own.

“At Arthritis Action, we provide support and train people in self-management methods that can help reduce the need for medical intervention.

“As the number of people living with arthritis increases every year it is time for a fundamental change in the way we look at and treat arthritis and we want the NHS and charities to work together to help more people manage their illness on their own. ‘

The charity’s research even analyzed arthritis cases by area.

The charity found that people in the West Midlands needed more support, with over half (57%) responding that they either didn’t feel very (38%) or not at all (20%) supported at the time of their diagnosis.

This compares to 44% of respondents in the south east of England and 37% in London.

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Justin Scacco

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