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Centegra rheumatologist helps patient find relief from psoriatic arthritis

Kathleen McNamara is not a person who thinks of walking her dog as a chore. Instead, it is a thrill for McNamara, who walked her dog June 14 for the first time in more than six months.

“I was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis in the beginning of January,” McNamara said. “I’d just turned 60 so I thought my pain was just part of old age.”

Her symptoms developed in December 2011 and became so severe that when she awoke one morning her hands were too swollen to bend her fingers.

“I’m a really active person and this came on really quickly,” said McNamara, the former principal of Mary Endres Elementary School in Woodstock. “You can have slow progression and you can also have huge flare-ups, and that is certainly what this was. I couldn’t drive because I couldn’t put my hands around the steering wheel. I couldn’t even hold a toothbrush.”

She visited her physician, family practitioner Dr. Lisa Glosson of Centegra Physician Care (CPC), who then referred her to CPC’s Dr. Anjali Gopal, a rheumatologist.

“My fear was that I was going to have to go to the city to find someone, and I was grateful to hear that Centegra had new rheumatologists,” she said. “I’m delighted with Dr. Gopal. She’s spunky and she’s compassionate and she was just what I needed at the time. She gave me hope that I would get better.”

McNamara did her own research about psoriatic arthritis and became fearful of side effects from the medicines that are often used to treat the disease.

“Dr. Gopal listened to me and understood I wanted to be conservative with medicines,” she said. We talked about my quality of life and she did a very good job explaining the treatments and possible side effects to me.”

Gopal said it was important that McNamara understood all of her treatment options and that her questions were answered.

“There are many treatments available that control the symptoms of psoriatic arthritis and prevent joint deterioration,” Gopal said. “Without treatment, psoriatic arthritis can disable even the most active individuals.”

After six months of treatment, McNamara said her symptoms are greatly improved.

“The joint pain is considerably less and I’m much more mobile. I am so grateful,” she said. “I think so much of life is about how resilient you are. I realized this was just a little bump in the road and I wanted to pick up and move on in my life.”

When Gopal prescribed adalimumab (brand name Humira) to treat McNamara’s psoriatic arthritis, a nurse taught McNamara how to give herself biweekly injections. She said she was surprised at how quickly she adjusted to giving herself the shots.

“The reality is that once you accept that you have to take control of your own wellness, you are ready to move forward,” she said.

McNamara’s life was so dramatically improved by her medication that she offered to speak to Gopal’s other patients about her experiences.

“The first time I was able to walk down the stairs without literally limping I got to the bottom and cried,” McNamara said. “It sounds so silly, but you appreciate so many things when you haven’t been able to do them.”

This summer, McNamara is enjoying social activities with friends for the first time in a long time. She said she’s thrilled to be living her normal life again, and she knows she has nearby help if her psoriatic arthritis flares again.

“I know I can call Dr. Gopal at any time and she’ll be available,” McNamara said. “There’s something very reassuring about that. She always seems to have time for me.”

Centegra Physician Care’s board-certified rheumatologists specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases that cause painful inflammation and swelling of the body’s muscles and joints. There are more than 100 rheumatic diseases, which include autoimmune diseases and musculoskeletal disorders. Some common conditions include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, tendonitis, gout, carpal tunnel syndrome and repetitive stress syndrome.

For more information or to schedule an appointment with a Centegra Physician Care rheumatologist, call 815-338-6600.