Lance Bass opens up about his psoriatic arthritis diagnosis

The former 'N Sync star initially thought his symptoms were caused by his work as a dancer.

Maija Kappler 4 minute read May 13, 2022
Men's Health Lance Bass

Lance Bass first experienced knee and shoulder pain. Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for Men's Health Magazine

Lance Bass, former member of ‘N Sync and LGBTQ activist, is opening up about having a rare disease: psoriatic arthritis.

When he started experiencing knee and shoulder pain years ago, he assumed it was just a result of his dance background.

“I had symptoms before, but I kind of just dealt with it, not knowing exactly what it was. I was a dancer my whole life, so I just kind of figured it was because of dancing,” Bass, 43, told People Magazine.

“It definitely started in my shoulders and then in my knees. To me, that was just… a sign of dancer pain, so I just thought it was completely normal.” He also noticed patches of psoriasis — itchy, red, scaly skin — on his scalp, but didn’t think too much of it.

Eventually, though, the pain was too extreme to ignore: his shoulders and knees felt “like glass,” he told E! News. He stopped working out completely.

“I lost a lot of weight, a lot of my muscle and I just did not feel right,” he told the outlet.

He finally went to a doctor about five years ago, and he received the diagnosis. When he first found out it was arthritis, he was shocked: “I was only in my thirties,” he said. “Like, ‘What is this?””

But eventually, the diagnosis “changed my life in the best way possible,” he said. “I knew how to go about my workout routines and I shouldn’t be afraid to work out my shoulders, knees and all that. And so I started eating healthier, I started exercising better. It really changed my life in a very healthy way.”

What is psoriatic arthritis?

Psoriatic arthritis is similar to rheumatoid arthritis, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine: it causes painful inflammation in and around the joints, which also causes swelling. But it usually effects fewer joints than rheumatoid arthritis, and is specific to people who also have psoriasis. Sometimes people deal with the skin condition for years before experiencing symptoms of arthritis, the Mayo Clinic says, and sometimes they pop up at the same time.

Symptoms more common to psoriatic arthritis than rheumatoid include foot pain, lower back pain, swollen fingers and toes, nail bed irritation, and irritation around the eye.

The condition is caused by the body’s immune system attacking healthy cells, which causes inflammation and over-production of skin tissue. It’s most common in people with a family history of the illness, and can sometimes be triggered by environmental factors, like viral or bacterial infections.

It also effects a younger demographic than many other forms of arthritis: it’s generally diagnosed in adults between the ages of 30 and 55.

There’s no cure for psoriatic arthritis, but treatments include medications such as  nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs. A healthy diet, lots of exercise, and good sleep can also help offset the illness.

Raising awareness via… dance?

Bass told People he’s glad he was diagnosed well before having children. (He and husband Michael Turchin had twins, Violet Betty and Alexander James, by surrogate last fall.)

“My shoulders were the main problem for me, and if I would’ve had kids five years ago, I don’t even know if I would’ve been able to feed my kids and hold them in a certain way because you use your shoulders so much,” he said. “I’m glad I got that under control before the kids came so that I can actually hold them without being in such excruciating pain.”

In partnership with the drug company Amgen, he and choreographer SJ Bleau developed what Bass calls a “very boy band-like” dance-focused PSA to help people identify the signs of psoriatic arthritis in their head, heels, knees or nails. He’s hoping to spread awareness about the illness.

“I had no idea that your symptoms will be [in those areas] for psoriatic arthritis,” Bass told E!. “So, if a kid or someone you know is feeling this, maybe they’ll recognize like, ‘Oh wait, I’m feeling those symptoms too.’ And just… doing a stupid little dance on TikTok might help your life in a major way.”

For more information about arthritis, visit the Arthritis Society of Canada or the U.S.-based Arthritis Foundation.

Maija Kappler is a reporter and editor at Healthing. You can reach her at mkappler@postmedia.com
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