Arthritis doesnt just harm the elderly – I got it at 23 & couldnt leave bed

Most of the time when you think of arthritis you think of the elderly – but one woman was just 23 when she was diagnosed with the condition.

Georgia, 27, has psoriatic arthritis, which causes painful joint inflammation in her body, fatigue, red raised skin and swelling in her fingers and toes.

Stress and the cold can give her flare-ups and sometimes you’ll see her in the summer with three pairs of socks on.

A year before she was diagnosed, Georgia had no idea what was going on with her body. She worked in theatre at the time and it started as a small patch of psoriasis on her head.

"When my tour contract ended I started a full-time teaching job. A few months later my right foot ballooned and while fake tanning I noticed that I had a rash on my entire leg," she revealed.

"My toes were swollen and redraw. I couldn’t walk and was using crutches. I thought, 'what on earth is that?!'

"I was still going to the gym even though I needed crutches but it got to the point where I couldn’t exercise, drive or go up the stairs. Sometimes I couldn’t get out of bed.

"Once I had to call my housemate because I needed to go to work and they had to help me get ready."

A rheumatologist eventually diagnosed her with arthritis, which added a new layer of stress to Georgia's life.

She said: "It was a relief to get the diagnosis but being given drug information was more overwhelming because you have to make a decision about treatment and medication.

"I was offered methotrexate but for me, the side effects of methotrexate outweighed the benefits. I wanted to try another option, but I realise not everyone can do this."

After her diagnosis, Georgia moved to London mid-flare up and started a new full-time teaching job.

She commuted via tube and had her “please offer me a seat badge” on but the TFL workers had to get on the train and get someone to stand up to give her a seat.

Georgia added: "Once everyone stared at me and I just broke down."

Thankfully Georgia's girlfriend Lauren is understanding and helps her as much as possible.

The pair met on Tinder more than two years ago and Lauren has always been open to learning more about arthritis.

"Lauren wanted to know more, I explained what it is as many people don’t know and how it can affect younger people too," she said.

"The hardest part for me is saying how my arthritis feels sometimes, as one day you can be fine and other times you feel worse, exhausted and in pain.

“I don’t look ill and sometimes you have to remind people how you really are.”

Georgia said their relationship is "intuitive", for example, Lauren knows Georgia can't open jars anymore so does it for her.

"Lauren is so supportive. If I get to thinking about the past and how I loved working in the theatre and styling wigs, which I can’t do now because of my hands, she reminds me of all that I have achieved and how I am still being creative," she said.

Sometimes Georgia's fingers get so swollen it's too painful to hold hands but she doesn't let it get her down.

She tries to be light-hearted about it as she's aware people might not know that she's ill.

"Everyone with arthritis is different and it is a hidden illness. For that reason, it’s hard for me to get annoyed even if anyone occasionally forgets," she said.

"I have learnt to adapt to what I need, I go to the gym regularly and I eat an almost vegan diet.

"When you have a hidden condition, it’s important to be open and honest with your partner. Try to have humour even though it’s not a nice situation, taking a light-hearted approach can sometimes help ease the pressure.

"Try to support each other. It will take time to adapt to living with arthritis. It’s a massive change but if you can work on getting out of that ‘the world is falling apart’ mindset, it can be very powerful."

Now the 27-year-old is working to bring awareness to the health condition.

"If someone says, 'you’re too young to have arthritis' I don’t get offended, I choose not to see it like that and am open to talking, you can get arthritis at any age," she explained.

"I campaign with Versus Arthritis to show that younger people get arthritis too."

27,000 people in the UK under 25 live with a form of arthritis, and many are so distressed and embarrassed by their situation they suffer in silence.

“Living with arthritis, and the pain and fatigue it can bring, can have a huge impact on quality of life, from walking to sleeping,” says Lynne Woolley, a Senior Lead for Young People and Families Services at Versus Arthritis.

Adding that everyday tasks, a career, a relationship and having a family can feel unachievable for young people with arthritis and that raising awareness is “vital” to end the stigma surrounding the condition.

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