When Todd Bello was diagnosed with psoriasis at the age of 28, it started as a small spot on his scalp that was covered by his hair. But very quickly, it went from being unnoticeable to severe. At the age of 35, he developed psoriatic arthritis, drastically changing the life he had built. He had to sell his business and quit the things he loved to do, including being a volunteer fireman/EMT and coaching soccer. Not only was he dealing with the physical pain that came with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, like painful and swelled joints and the itchiness and bleeding of the lesions, but there was also learning to live with the emotional and mental aspects, such as low self-esteem and depression.
Even though biologics were still considered very risky about 20 years ago, Todd decided to try them, stating, “I was covered with psoriasis and feeling miserable. I knew I couldn’t go on living like this.” It was a decision made with careful thought and lots of homework, but one that has changed his life for the better.
Biologics are a protein-based drug, administered by injection or intravenous (IV) injection, which is derived from living organisms. Unlike traditional drugs, which affect the entire immune system, biologics target specific parts of the immune system.
In Todd’s experience going on a biologic has drastically improved his life. “Each biologic I tried was better then the previous one. Physically I'd have to say I'm 90 percent better. And mentally I'm cautiously optimistic because these treatments are temporary.” He’s happily able to ride his bike again now that his skin and joints are not in pain. “I'm looking forward to participating in the NPF Long Island Bike Ride fundraiser in 2016,” says Todd.
Today, Todd Bello is a passionate and strong patient advocate for people living with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. He is also an active mentor with the National Psoriasis Foundation.
Understanding Your Treatment Options With Psoriasis
“The biologics used to treat psoriatic disease block the action of a specific type of immune cell called a T cell, or block proteins in the immune system such as tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), interleukin 17-A, or interleukins 12 and 23. These cells and proteins all play a major role in developing psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.”
National Psoriasis Foundation
These days, there are multiple kinds of biologics available for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis treatment. Some brands are administered via injection at home, while others are given through an IV at a doctor’s office. Some are taken only a few times a year while others are taken every other week. The majority of biologics require preliminary blood work and testing for latent (hidden) tuberculosis (TB) and some require occasional blood tests while you’re taking it. Being on a biologic also means follow up doctor visits to review progress, discuss how you’re feeling and determine if that particular biologic is working for you.
If your psoriasis/psoriatic arthritis is moderate to severe and you’ve tried every possible option (meaning diet, exercise and topical medications) you may want to consider talking to your doctor about going on a biologic. Todd recommends asking your doctor for their recommendation on which is right for you, but also doing your own research about the medications you’re thinking about taking.
He urges patients to empower themselves to be their own advocates and to feel comfortable with your treatment choices.
He suggests finding an online support group or joining the mentor program with the National Psoriasis Foundation to connect with others who are also taking the drug and talk to them about their experiences.
Like any medication, talk to your doctor about possible side effects and any concerns that you have. Ask your doctor to work with you on a whole-body treatment plan, that not only includes nutrition and exercise, but discusses the emotions and mental aspect that comes with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.
Todd is also is the founder of the support group Overcoming Psoriasis on Facebook. He is a patient blogger at OvercomingPsoriasis.com. He wants you to know psoriasis is not contagious and it's not just a skin disease.