If you’re like me, you’re probably on a lot of different medications. It’s important to know what you are taking and its purpose. My rheumatologist in Atlanta insisted I memorize the medications I was taking and the doses “just in case.” The just in case for me ended up was telling a paramedic and then emergency room doctors all of my meds after I fell on a wet kitchen floor and dislocated my elbow many years ago. It served me well again five years ago when I was taken to First Aid at Wrigley Field after being hit in the forehead with a batting practice ball and getting a concussion. Learning what your medications are and dosages really is important!
But beyond that, learning why you are on particular medications is equally important. For example, I am on prednisone to slow my immune system and try to help with inflammation. I am on a vasodilator to help curb Raynaud’s attacks, but I have also found it keeps me from getting migraines. I am on a biologic that is supposed to help slow the progression of the RA. I take a Xanax each night to help me relax because one side effect of long-term use of prednisone is insomnia. I take a super-strength Pepcid twice a day to help manage an ulcer that was caused by another medication I can no longer take. I take Tramadol three times a day for pain management (I wish it helped me like it helps almost everyone else I know). I am on a cholesterol medicaiton because the prednisone caused my cholesterol to go a little high. I take a medication to calm my colitis, which was diagnosed while I was in college, and may very well have been a warning sign of things to come. I take Advair to help me breath better because of horrible allergies, for which I also take Flonase and another allergy pill. And I always have my epi-pen and Benadryl handy in case of an allergic reaction to foods or bites or stings. It’s as lot to remember, but thankfully, even when I have lupus, RA or fibro fog I can remember those meds and why I take them.
Many meds I am on or have been on have been created for other conditions and diseases. In the course of finding out more about chronic illnesses, studies found that medicines normally meant for, say, blood pressure can help control Raynaud’s. Antidepressants can be used to help a person relax enough to be able to sleep at night. You don’t need to be “depressed” to be on an antidepressant. Many of the biologics on the market today supposedly help many different ailments from RA to Chron’s Disease. Chemotherapy drugs, like methotrexate, have been shown to help different types of arthritis, lupus and other chronic illnesses in many people (not me).
Because there are so many types and classes of medications on the market, it’s important for you and your doctor to discuss all of your options. Almost all of the medications have side effects – some worse than others. You should discuss those side effects and decide whether you are willing to take the chance of having one or a number of the posible side effects.
When my lupus was first diagnosed, my doctor had me on massive doses of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs). When none of those worked, we decided I had to take a steroid. We even tried a chemo drug. When my RA was diagnosed, since I had already been through the NSAIDs, was on a steriod and had already had a bad reaction to a chemo drug, the only thing left was a biologic.
In the coming days I will discuss each type of medication, what each is supposed help and how they affected me. It is my hope that my experiences can help others who are facing many of the same decisions I am still making.