Tag Archives: medication

Having a Conversation

I love my rheumatologist. I trust his advice and the decisions he makes regarding my treatment and often don’t question his reasoning behind those decisions.

But before finding him, I was subjected to the ignorance and stupidity of many doctors. I went through 5 general practitioners before I took it upon myself to do Internet research and make a first appointment with my rheumy. DrugFacts-MedicationProbThe scary common theme among those doctors was that they were willing to write out prescriptions for just about any reason. There were prescription fish oil tabs, NSAIDs, aspirin/codeine concoctions, antidepressants, and a slew of other drugs that, in hindsight, make my liver do flips just thinking about them. But ya know what? I never questioned them. I blindly trusted the “MD” after their names to mean that they were automatically right and that I shouldn’t ask questions.

January 26-February 1 is National Drug Fact Week, and I’m taking a moment to remind you that you should start a conversation with your doctor about your medications. Here are a few statistics:

  • 700,000 ER visits each year are from incorrect medication usage (Source: AmericanHealthCare.com). I don’t know the specifics of this fact and whether or not this includes people who take shared prescriptions, but it’s worth mentioning that you should never take any drug that hasn’t been prescribed to you. Shared prescriptions don’t take into account your weight, age, level of health, and drug interactions. Assuming that you’re taking your own prescription, ask your doctor questions. Ask him to repeat instructions (Do I take this daily? Twice daily? On an empty stomach? Should I not take it with orange juice? What are possible side effects?). Don’t rely on the label on the bottle to tell you what to do, and don’t feel ashamed or worried that you’re wasting your doc’s time.
  • 2/3 of all doctors’ visits end with a prescription being written (Source: TalkAboutRx.org). Clearly, I’m not telling you to develop a distrust for your doctor or that you should refuse to take your medication. But this is why a conversation is needed. Make sure the prescription that you’re being given is truly needed and not just his way of dismissing you from his office.
  • On average, at least one drug is recalled in the US each month (Source: Reuters.com). My mother was on an RA drug DrugFacts-Recalls2called Bextra for years before it was taken off the market in 2005. She claims it was the only drug that ever worked for her and controlled her pain, so of course she didn’t care about the possible side effects it could have. However, it doesn’t hurt to occasionally do some research on your medications, just to see if they’ve been under scrutiny lately. American Recall Center has a wealth of information about drug safety and current pharmaceutical lawsuits.

I’m not condemning all doctors or prescription drugs. I’m thankful for the quality of life that my doctor and medication have given back to me since my diagnosis. But I make sure to read up on every prescription I take, and I urge you to do the same.

 

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RA And Sjögren’s Syndrome

Though I’m living more pain-free these days, I don’t think my eyes got the memo. Quite frequently I wake up feeling like I spent the night frolicking through a windy desert. Sometimes I’m forced to leave my desk randomly throughout the day (as I just did while in the middle of writing this sentence) to dart into the bathroom and attempt to put eye drops in my eye (I miss on the first try every time. Without fail). It becomes a bit of a problem when your job requires you to stare at a computer all day.

It’s not rare for Rheumatoid Arthritis to affect other parts of the body besides the joints. Sometimes certain medications people take for RA are the culprits. A lesser known fact is that there are other medical conditions that develop as complications to autoimmune diseases like RA. Sjögren’s syndrome is one of those complications. It is an inflammatory disease that affects tear and salivary glands. According to the American College of Rheumatology, between 400,000 and 3.1 million adults have Sjögren’s, and half of those people have a disease like RA or Lupus. A rheumatologist can test for it during a routine visit. I haven’t been tested for it, to the best of my knowledge. Either that, or I have been tested for it and it came back negative.

The good news, it seems, is that the symptoms of Sjögren’s may go away on their own. Certain RA drugs like Plaquenil may help alleviate symptoms.

Even though my eyes get dry and itchy and my mouth sometimes feels like it’s stuffed with cotton, I’ve found that drinking a lot of water and keeping artificial tears in my bag really helps. My favorite brands are Blink Tears and Clear Eyes Natural Tears. Just make sure that whatever drops you get don’t contain an antihistamine or other allergy component.

Anyone else have this issue? What have you done about it?

 


Hobby Lobby vs. Rheumatoid Arthritis

While I try not to get political in my blog postings, yesterday’s Supreme Court decision in favor of Hobby Lobby is too big a deal to not talk about here. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, check out this article from Mashable.

The ruling is appalling. Not only did some men decide that it was okay to take away women’s reproductive rights in the name of religion, but lots women now have something extra to worry about: the consequences that come from getting pregnant while having a serious disease. Okay, sure, women can still go buy birth control on their own. It just wouldn’t be covered by insurance. But birth control is expensive, especially if you’re already struggling to afford the medications necessary to keep you alive.

Most people know that cancer patients need to come off their chemo drugs before trying to get pregnant. What most people don’t know is that women with autoimmune diseases like Rheumatoid Arthritis are often prescribed those same chemo drugs to combat their immune systems. Drugs like Methotrexate are poisons that often lead to miscarriage or serious birth defects.

I’m lucky. My doctor has decided that I don’t need aggressive treatment for my RA yet. He’s purposely keeping me on what he considers “baby friendly” medication for as long as possible. Most women don’t have that option. Women with aggressive autoimmune diseases have to plan their pregnancies as much as two years in advance. They need to quit their medications and allow the drug to work its way out of their systems before they can even try to conceive, which can take months or years.

I can’t imagine how painful this ruling is for these women. I can’t imagine being told that I have no choice but to risk suffering through the heartache that follows a miscarriage that would have been avoided if certain forms of birth control had been available.

I have RA, I’m engaged, and I’m looking for a full time job. Do I seriously need to limit my job options because my future boss may have some ridiculous vendetta against my reproductive health and the choices I make with my future husband? Anyone else find it highly ironic that Hobby Lobby’s owners claim they won’t support abortifacients (chemical abortions), yet they just made it more possible to have unwanted spontaneous abortions via chemo drugs? Yeah, a spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) is not the same as an abortion. I get that and I’m not trying to start an argument over which is worse.

My point is that no one should have any right to dictate the decisions I make based on their beliefs. Religion is something that is supposed to be personal. I’d never try to enforce my beliefs on anyone, and I have no respect for people or companies trying to push me to follow their supposed morals. Where is the morality in putting a couple through emotional and physical trauma?

If this whole argument is over “religious freedom,” then where the hell is mine?

 

 


Ginger and Joint Pain

Can you tell I’m trying to be clever with my titles? Anyway…

Courtesy of Google Images

Courtesy of Google Images

I got over the funk that my last doctor’s visit put me in. I’m not happy about my current situation, but I had my pity party and now I’m sucking it up and moving on. However, a recent surgery has made me reevaluate pain and pain medication. It wasn’t anything too serious. I had a piercing when I was younger that turned into a hypertrophic scar, and I had to have it removed. I opted for an in-office surgery with local anesthetic rather than going to a surgical center and being put under anesthesia. It was a great time for me to find out that I have a slight tolerance to local anesthetic. My doctor had to stop the procedure every so often to give me multiple injections of Lidocaine.  But I’m getting off track again…

2 hours later, I was sent on my way with 30 stitches in my ear and a prescription for Codeine. I have to admit, I was a little concerned at the idea of taking it. I hate popping pain meds, even Tylenol. I’m already taking 2 prescriptions twice a day, why take anything else? Thankfully, I only needed to take one Codeine tablet a little after I got home. Otherwise I was up and doing fine the next day. But the Codeine got me thinking…can I find an alternative to dangerous and highly addictive pain medications? I’ve read a few blogs written by people with RA who have to take the strongest pain killers out there. They write about how awful the withdrawal symptoms are and how they wish they weren’t taking narcotics.

I started doing some research. I found a few great natural remedies (and I promise I will write about each and every one of them at a later time) but the one that stuck out the most was ginger. Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties, and I thought that if I combined using it with my anti-inflammatory prescription, I would see better results than taking just the prescription alone.

Here’s what I do: I buy only fresh ginger (usually three or four roots at a time) from the local

Courtesy of Google Images

Courtesy of Google Images

supermarket to use in tea. I put a root in the fridge for use that week. I chop up the other roots into smaller 1 inch pieces and throw them into the freezer (that way I don’t have to put stress on my hands by trying to cut frozen ginger and I don’t have to worry about it rotting). When I’m ready to make my tea, I peel a piece, throw it in a mug with a green tea bag, a pour the hot water in. I put a small plate over the cup while it steeps so that the oils from the ginger don’t evaporate. Steep it as long as you normally would steep your tea. I love ginger, so I just leave it in the bottom of the cup and eat it when I’m done drinking the tea. I do this every morning, and I’ve noticed that I feel less stiff in the morning than usual. Before it used to take 10 minutes to get out of bed each morning; now I can get up as soon as my alarm goes off.

Ginger is supposed to help with more than just achy joints. I’m not a doctor so don’t take my word for any of this, but I’ve read online that ginger is good for colds and the flu, as well as morning sickness, migraines, and heartburn. Of course, check with your doctor to make sure that ginger won’t interact with any of the medication you’re on, but ginger tea is certainly worth a shot.


First Rheumy Visit of 2013

Taken from Google Images

Taken from Google Images

I’m going to allow myself to have a small pity party in this post, if you don’t mind. My first visit to the doctor this year sucked. I love my doctor, don’t get me wrong. I always tell people that the man is not allowed to retire or die, because I want him to take care of me forever. I just wish he had better news for me today.

Even though I haven’t been in pain much lately, I’m showing signs of joint damage in my hands. If I place my hands on a flat surface, you can see a dip in my knuckles. Now, I’m being forced to make some pretty big decisions.

He wants to switch me to Methotrexate for a few months, then possibly to Enbrel or Humira. He told me he wanted me to put some serious thought into taking the more aggressive approach, so I have until my next appointment in May to make the call. Here’s the dilemma: if I don’t go on the new treatment and stay on the Plaquenil, my joints are going to continue to get worse. If I opt for the new treatment, however, he told me that it’s not very likely I’ll be able to have children, since none of these medications are “baby friendly,” as he calls it. Even worse, it’s possible that we’ll run out of treatment options that much sooner, meaning there won’t be anything left to help me when I’m, say, 40. I’m devastated. Mom’s a mess. My friends are speechless. My family is trying to convince me to freeze some of my eggs so I can become a mom someday.

I thought I was doing so well. As much as I don’t want to start taking chemo drugs or risk my fertility, I don’t see any other option. I need my hands. I’m a writer and, more recently, a jewelry designer. I’m 21 years old, I need to be able to go out and make a living for myself without having to depend on other people to care for me.

I’m too young for joint damage. I need some more time to think and get my emotions in check. I also need to do some research on Eastern medicine. I’ll be damned if I have to get old before my time, and I’ll swallow any amount of roots or barks to slow that process down. Meanwhile, could you send some good vibes/prayers my way? It’s been an awful, highly emotional week for me. Maybe you think I’m being over-dramatic or selfish, but I do realize there are people out there who have it worse. I have a friend with terminal cancer. I know myself, and I know eventually I’ll start looking at this situation with a positive attitude. I just need a little push to get there.


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