“I have been taking Methotrexate (MTX) for RA and the side effects are almost unbearable. It really helps with the inflammation, but the gastrointenstinal side effects are quite unpleasant. It feels like i’m going to die.”
“Has anyone noticed that irritability is a side effect of taking MTX. I was on 7 pills weekly and my family all say that I am very irritable and even mean at times while taking this med.”
” The doctors put me on Enbrel and I started having some side effects after two doses. I had chills, shaking, and my stomach felt empty all day. I’m also experiencing muscle pain in my back and I can tell I’m beginning to develop another type of infection.”
“My hair also began to fall out with MTX, but even worse was feeling exhausted and sick to my stomach.”
Do any of these symptoms sound familiar to you?
Are you aware that when you take Rheumatoid medications to tackle your Rheumatoid Arthritis inflammation and pain, there are actually many side effects that come with taking these drugs? The above are but just some testimonials of Rheumatoid Arthritis sufferers reporting side effects of rheumatoid drugs that they are taking for treating their RAs.
The Many Reasons to Avoid Rheumatoid Medications and Drugs
It is impossible to list all of the horrible side effects of RA medications because different drugs cause different side effects and different people react differently to medications. However, some of the more common side effects of the different categories of medications used to treat arthritis are:
A nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) is often recommended by doctors as medication for Rheumatoid Arthriitis. NSAIDs work by blocking an enzyme that promotes inflammation. By reducing inflammation, NSAIDs help reduce swelling and pain but do not slow progression of RA. Therefore, people with moderate to severe RA often require additional medications to prevent further joint damage. Common NSAIDs include ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin), dicoflenac sodium (Voltaren) and naproxen sodium (Aleve).
Side Effects: Edema (swelling of feet), stomach irritation, ulcers and bleeding, raised blood pressure, heartburn, increased risk of blood clots heart attack and stroke.
Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) help slow or stop progression of RA. The most common DMARD used to treat rheumatoid arthritis is Methotrexate (MTX). Other DMARDs include Arava, Cytoxan, Plaquenil, Imuran – to name a few. DMARDs have known to greatly improve the quality of life for many but they may take up to six months to be fully effective.
DMARDs work to suppress the immune system. As they are not selective in their targets, they weaken the overall immune system and hence, increase the body’s susceptibility to infections. Regular blood tests are often required to ensure that the drug is not hurting the blood cells or organs including your liver, kidneys and lungs.
Side Effects: Low blood counts, ulcers, skin rash, loss of appetite, liver problems, nausea or vomiting, extreme fatigue, active infection, headache, high blood pressure, hair loss, irritated and bleeding gums, blurry vision, abdominal cramps, etc.
Steroids are also commonly used to ease the pain and stiffness of affected joints. In some cases, steroids are needed long term to control flare ups, pain and inflammation. They can be taken orally or injected directly into an inflamed joint.
Side Effects: Elevated blood pressure and sugar levels, osteoporosis, bruising, cataracts, increased cholesterol, increased indigestion, infection, muscle weakness, mood swings and nervousness, stomach ulcers, underactive thyroid, etc
These are the newest and most effective treatments for rheumatoid arthritis. Biologics are genetically engineered proteins designed to inhibit specific components of the immune system that play a pivotal role in inflammation. Often used when other medications have failed to work, Biologics may slow or even stop RA progression.
TNF blockers help to reduce pain and joint damage by blocking an inflammatory protein called tumor necrosis factor (TNF). There is some evidence that TNF blockers may stop the progression of RA. TNF blockers include Enbrel, Humira, Remicade, Cimzia, and Simponi.
Side Effects: Injection or infusion site reactions, including localised rash, burning, redness and swelling, and increased risk of serious infections such as Tuberculosis.
Cancer risks cannot be ruled out
If you have RA and are taking RA medications, you are also at increased risk of 8 types of cancers: lung cancer, skin cancer, Myeloma (a rare form of cancer that affects white blood cells called plasma cells ), non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and Hodgkin’s disease, cancers of immune cells called lymphocytes, hepatosplenic T-cell lymphoma linked to TNF inhibitors, leukemia, breast and colorectal cancer and prostate cancer.
Exploring Holistic Approaches and Alternative Treatments
Pain control is an important aspect of treating RA and it is the reason why we are taking conventional medications. Ideally, we will want to use only the safest drugs and only when necessary, and the ultimate goal is to manage our pains without medications.
While using Rheumatoid drugs and medications are important to prevent joint deformity, we must recognise that once we are on drugs, we are most likely stick with them for the rest of our lives, or worse that can happen, we will need to add more drugs when the earlier drug fails to work or when our body has started to become resistant to these drugs. The toxic accumulation herefrom will only continue to pile up and not reduced or expelled from our body. If we, for one day, stop taking any medications, our RA inflammation and that familiar screaming pains will start firing back fast and hard.
Do not be afraid to raise these side effects concerns with your physicians or rheumatologists; and discuss on the ways you can take reduce them. Talk about possibilities of taking some of the safer prescription drugs for pain management such as non-acetylated salicylates like salsalate, sodium salicylate, and magnesium salicylate.
Drug side effects are now a leading cause of death, disability, and illness. Experts estimate that only 1–10% of “serious” adverse events (those causing hospitalization, disability, or death) are ever reported. Not to mention the millions of “medically mild” adverse drug events that occur each year — ones that compromise a person’s concentration, functioning, judgment, and ability to care.
As I wrestle with how to best treat and recover from RA in the safest and most efficacious way possible, I am forced to think outside the box instead of relying on conventional orthodox wisdom. Before long, I explore into Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) modalities for the treatment of RA. CAM may include such varied modalities such Chinese, Indian and Tibetan traditional medicine, herbal medicine, and homeopathy. These modalities provide a form of treatment that largely lies outside the current dominant ‘biomedical’ paradigm but which is a viable complement or alternative to this paradigm, especially in such chronic illness. CAM use has been understood as a critical component of self care and pain management or a search for cure or remission in general, there is no need to see its use as a rejection of conventional medicine.
There is always plenty of anecdotal evidence (ie. individual patient experience) that is cited by every therapeutic modality due to factors including the placebo effect, the suitability of an individual to a particular therapy and many other unknown factors. Therefore, open yourself up to the myriad of alternative remedies out there, and you may be surprised that what you will experience embracing these holistic approaches towards treating your Rheumatoid Arthritis!