Taking medication on a daily or weekly basis is a reality for most people with arthritis to control arthritis pain and inflammation. But with such a wide array of options available, finding the right combinations of treatments that work for you can be tricky.
Understanding what each individual type of arthritis drug does and what side-effects it can cause is no mean feat either. However there are a number of steps you can follow to help ensure you are taking medication safely.
Many people have their own safety checklists that they consult when they discover a new drug or treatment. At Arthritis Ireland, we have drawn up a checklist of our own based on the thoughts and advice of both healthcare professionals and people living with arthritis.
1. Take time to discuss possible side effects of your medication with your doctor – it will help you weigh up the risks and benefits of a treatment.
2. Keep a list of all the drugs you are taking. Let your doctor or pharmacist see this before you start on any new treatment – even ‘over-the-counter’ medicines including vitamins, creams, gels and rubs etc.
3. Some drugs affect your immune system and can leave you prone to infection. So it is important to report any new symptoms to your doctor without delay.
4. Expect to have your blood and urine tested regularly, before and during your treatment. Other tests such as chest X-rays may also be needed.
5. Follow the instructions for taking your medication – keeping to the correct dose and times, and noting whether your tablets are best taken with or without food.
6. Always read the leaflet enclosed with medicines carefully.
7. Some drugs used by people with arthritis can affect fertility in men and women, and be harmful if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Always check with your doctor first.
8. With some drugs you may need to avoid alcohol or reduce your intake. Ask your doctor for advice.
9. If you miss a dose, don’t try to catch up by taking more next time. Ask your doctor or pharmacist what you should do.
10. Immunisation against flu and pneumonia is recommended for everyone taking immunosuppressants, anti-TNFs and steroid tablets. Immunisations involving live vaccines
such as polio and rubella should be avoided. Ask your doctor for more information.
11. Remember, if one drug doesn’t work for you, or you get severe side effects, this won’t necessarily happen with them all. Ask for regular medication reviews, persevere and work with your doctor to find a treatment that suits you.
For more information on drugs and treatments, including information specific to NSAIDS, DMARDS and Biologics, download the Arthritis Ireland Drugs and Complementary Therapies information booklet.