I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis on July 27th of this year. I remember sitting in the doctor’s office, just crying an crying. Crying because he finally (after a lot of visits) said out loud that I had RA. Crying, because I had no clue what my future with RA would look like. Crying, because I didn’t want to start taking (more) medication.
I was already taking medication for my IBS and I am not a strong proponent of taking a lot of medication. I soon found out that without medication, my RA would progress, and of course that’s not what you want. If a medication can slow that process down, you’d better take it, right?
I found out that there are different kinds of medication to treat RA:
- NSAIDs. (Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs): these can relieve pain and reduce inflammation. For example: ibuprofen and naproxen sodium (over the counter). There are also stronger NSAIDs, but you have to get a prescription for those.
Side effects may include: stomach irritation, heart problems, liver and kidney damage, ringing in your ears.
- Steroids. (Corticosteroid medications): these reduce inflammation and pain and slow down the joint damage. For example: Prednisone.
Side effects may include: weight gain, thinning of bones and diabetes.
- Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs): these can slow down the progression of RA and save the joints and other tissues from permanent damage. For example: methotrexate, leflunomide, hydroxychloroquine and sulfasalazine.
Side effects may include: liver damage, bone marrow suppression and severe lung infections.
- Biologic agents (biologic response modifiers): these drugs can target parts of the immune system that trigger inflammation that causes joint and tissue damage. These are most effective if paired with a nonbiologic DMARD. For example:Orencia, Humira, Kineret, Cimzia, Enbrel, Simponi, Remicade, Rituxan, Actemra, Xeljanz.
Side effect may include: allergic hypersensitivity, increased risk of infections, injection site reactions, low blood pressure, cancer, congestive heart fail, anemia.
- These lists are by no means complete.
I started with one week of Prednisone. I felt so much better, until I had to stop it. I (think I) felt like a junk rehabilitating. Then I had some time without any meds. Then I started Prednisone for a week again. And again I felt much better (until tapering down, during my vacation). My rheumatologist said that if the Prednisone still works the second week, I did not only have Fibromyalgia, but also Rheumatoid Arthritis. Of course, by then I could have known, but instead of believing it for a 100% I kind of denied it, I think.