A 2018 study found that those who search online for health information use what they learn to make medical decisions.
While finding reputable information online can be helpful, running it past your doctor is always a safe way to verify what you learn.
Additionally, connecting with others who are going through exactly what you are can bring comfort and support you may not find from a medical team.
Elizabeth Medeiros received a diagnosis of juvenile idiopathic arthritis when she was 12. At 14, her condition was specified as juvenile psoriatic arthritis.
Her feet, hips, and knees were affected most. Over time, her jaw and other joints became impacted, too.
While her doctor put her on a treatment plan that works well, the emotional side of living with psoriatic arthritis (PsA) made it hard for her to cope.
“When I was first diagnosed with PsA, I was desperate to meet others going through the same thing as me,” says Medeiros.
To connect with others, she started a blog, The Girl with Arthritis, and also turned to Facebook and Instagram to find support groups.
“I’ve met a lot of wonderful people through the years,” she says.
To expand her connections, she joined the free PsA Healthline app.
“The thing I like so much about PsA Healthline is how personal it feels. All the different groups within the app where you can post make me feel like my posts and questions are going to the right place,” she says.
For instance, if she wants to share insights on mental health-related topics, they land in the “Mental and Emotional Health” group.
The group feature is a favorite aspect of the app for Ashley Featherson, who got her psoriasis diagnosis at age 4.
Until Featherson joined PsA Healthline, she only connected with others in her community via social media, including Instagram.
“I mainly follow others with psoriasis or holistic pages and follow their journey. PsA Healthline is different, with the different groups and being able to discuss all areas affected by psoriasis with those who understand,” Featherson says.
As much as Medeiros agrees, she says her favorite part of the app is participating in evening live chats, which cover a new theme each night.
“So many wonderful conversations are sparked from the questions,” she says. “And even if the topic is something that’s not as applicable to me, I love reading about others’ experiences and learning new things.”
Because having chronic pain can often make you feel isolated and alone, Medeiros says PsA Healthline helps bring comfort.
“There’s a lot of pressure to hide your pain and not talk about it with others. Having a place that encourages you to post about your experiences and know others care and relate is amazing,” she says.
Showing support for others is just as rewarding, Medeiros adds.
“I also really love the reactions you can apply to posts: love, strength, or hug (or all three!). There are times I don’t have any advice to give, but want to let a member know I’m sending them lots of strength and hugs,” she says.
If you’re hesitant to try it, Medeiros suggests joining and simply reading what others have to say until you are comfortable engaging.
“I’m sure you’ll be inspired to join in when you see how helpful and caring the members can be,” she says.
Featherson agrees, pointing out that the community is filled with people just like you.
“It’s a safe space for all areas surrounding psoriasis and PsA. It helps during moments of frustration or when looking for remedies or thoughts on treatments,” she says.
Download the app here.
Cathy Cassata is a freelance writer who specializes in stories around health, mental health, medical news, and inspirational people. She writes with empathy and accuracy and has a knack for connecting with readers in an insightful and engaging way. Read more of her work here.