Tag Archives: Plaquenil

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?



The Gardening Dilemma


Sunday I decided to wage war against the backyard. Due to all of the rain we’ve been having here in New Jersey, the garden has been neglected for a few weeks. I have quite a few battle scars from trying to tame my roses, but everything looks beautiful now. The only problem is that on some days, yard work can seem like an impossible task for a person with RA. I’ve compiled my list of shortcuts here. They’re all common sense tips, but sometimes I feel like we try to kid ourselves into believing that we don’t need to modify our habits to accommodate RA.

1. Pick a cool day to work outside. Or work early in the morning or after sunset. That seems like a no-brainer, but the heat definitely affects me more now than it ever did before. I feel fatigued more quickly when the sun is out. The only reason I was able to work all day yesterday was because it was cloudy and windy.

2. Use sunblock anyway. We take medications that can make us more sensitive to sunlight. I’m on Plaquenil, and I will burn if I’m outside for even 5 minutes without sunblock. Just play it IMG_20130616_173012_676safe and put some on. Think of all of the wrinkles you’re preventing.

3. Take constant breaks. Work for 20 minutes, then take a break. Or do one task (like mowing the lawn) and then sit and rest. It helps with the fatigue and gives your joints a break from repetitive stress. Your body will thank you by not keeping you in bed the next day with a horrible flare.

4. Which is why it’s also helpful to break up tasks into days. Just like every other aspect of our lives, gardening sometimes needs to be done using baby steps. If all you’re capable of is mowing the lawn today, then that’s enough. See how you feel tomorrow. Your flowers won’t IMG_20130616_160337_187mind if you push back replanting them by an extra day.

5. Use good tools. It’s okay to spend a little bit more for them. I’ve come to realize that this is extremely important. I was using rusty garden shears to trim the roses. They were dull and put a lot of extra stress on my fingers, which made them lock up. I went to Home Depot and got myself a fancy new pair of ergonomic shears.

6. Use a chair and kneeling pad. Quite frankly, I don’t care if the neighbors think I’m crazy for trimming the plants while seated. I’ll take the judgement over the back pain. And for weeding and planting, I have cushioned kneeling board. That was also a worthwhile purchase.

Now they just need to invent grass that cuts itself…

All photos are my own.

A Quick Update

I’m in the middle of exam week, so I can’t really write the way I want to. I just thought I’d leave you a quick update about how I’m doing. I went to the doctor 2 weeks ago and was given amazing news: no methotrexate. I can stay on the Plaquenil for at least another 3 months. He didn’t see any more damage in my joints. However, he told me that he needs me to try to lose some weight to take the pressure off my knees. My goal is to lose at least 10 pounds by August, which is when I have my next appointment. This is going to be a huge challenge for me, which is why I’m publicizing it. If it’s not a secret, I can’t slack.

Okay, that’s it for now. I’ll see you after exams!

What the Eff?!

A Photo of My Receipt

So, I was originally planning to have this post be about natural healing, but I feel that this is a slightly more important topic. As I’ve mentioned probably a million times before, I am taking Plaquenil and Celebrex to control my RA. I take Plaquenil twice a day to keep my immune system under control. The Celebrex is taken twice a day as needed, and I usually only take it on days when my inflammation levels are high and there’s a lot of pain. My doc told me it was okay to take it daily, but at $60 for a 30 day supply, I figured I’d save myself some money.

Well, I recently needed to get a refill on my prescriptions. Imagine my surprise when the pharmacy told me that it would be $160 dollars for the Celebrex! I was aware that my insurance company had bumped up my copay a bit, but really?! My Plaquenil only went from $10 to $15. Sometimes I feel like insurance and pharmaceutical companies think everybody is rich. The truth is though, that if my prescription is going to be $160 a bottle, then I need to make sure the bottle I just got lasts for the next 6 months. I’m still in school, so I only work part time. Quite frankly, this expense is worth half of my paycheck. I still have school loans and other bills to pay, and I need to somehow find a way to feed myself. I know Mom will always be willing to help, but I’m too stubborn to have other people paying for my expenses. And I’m sure as hell NOT going to charge it to my credit card, because 60 little pills aren’t worth the ridiculous amounts of interest that I’d be stuck paying.

I spoke to a friend of mine, who happens to be a pharmacist. She explained the 3-tier system that insurance companies use for determining the amount that we pay for a certain drug. She sat down with my and we checked out my insurance company’s website to see what they had Celebrex listed as. Turns out that it is a third-tier prescription (meaning the most expensive) and is also listed as “Supply Limited” for my insurance company. At that moment, it dawned on me: this week makes it exactly one year since I got my official diagnosis. When I told her this, she said that companies usually only cover a certain amount of a prescription’s cost for one year. Any longer than that, and a patient needs to pay a higher price.

However, there might be a happy ending. She said that since this is a medication I might be on for the rest of my life, my doctor may be able to contact the insurance company and get the price brought back down to what I was paying before.

This got me thinking though…I consider myself to be very fortunate. As much as the pay may suck sometimes, I have a job that gets me by. I have medical insurance (thanks to Mom, of course) that keeps me from paying full price for doctor visits and prescriptions. But what about the people who aren’t as lucky as I am? How are they supposed to buy the medication they need? Or are they just supposed to suck it up and deal with the pain in other ways? What if it’s a child with JRA who’s in pain? Tylenol and Aleve help slightly, but they aren’t strong enough to combat a full blown flare. And then of course, my thoughts turned to my boyfriend, who has HIV. If he didn’t have insurance, how could he afford to pay thousands of dollars a month for the medication that’s keeping him alive? What if his insurance company started charging him a higher copay for it?

Here’s my logic. Plants and herbs are relatively cheap, correct? And though I’m not a pharmacist and don’t have a degree in medicine or chemistry or anything, aren’t most medications made with plants? So, doesn’t that mean that in theory, it shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg for a single pill? I mean, generic brand prescriptions and OTCs are generally on the cheap(er) side. Does that mean that the only reason I’ll need to sell my future firstborn child to pay for this stuff is because it’s a “designer label”?

My doctor and I have had the same discussion a million times about why he won’t change my prescription. I’ll explain that in a future post. So, I’m going to ask: What would you do if your copay went up? Would you continue to buy the prescription as usual? Would you stop taking it? Have your doctor change it? Feel free to leave some comments, but be nice!

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