3 Reasons to Begin Using Rheumatoid Arthritis Medicines to Fight the Disease | Rheumatoid Arthritis Warrior

3 Reasons to Begin Using Rheumatoid Arthritis Medicines to Fight the Disease

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Rheumatoid Arthritis medicines called “big guns”

Often, people ask how they’ll know when are ready for the big guns. My answer: When RA fires its weapons on you! It’s time for powerful Rheumatoid Arthritis medicines as soon as you know that you have Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Chronic Rheumatoid Arthritis has first strike weapons that can be like a nuclear blast to your body. Recent research shows that Rheumatoid Arthritis spreads through the body into unaffected joints via synovial fibroblasts, making early disease treatment even more significant. You should consider this an ambush. Untreated RA can damage joints and other body systems unhindered and unseen.

Early Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment is our best hope for now

Early treatment with Rheumatoid Arthritis medicines that battle the disease is crucial. While there is no Rheumatoid Arthritis cure, fighting RA is the best option we have today. Medicines which treat Rheumatoid Arthritis symptoms do not necessarily work by fighting the disease. One of my early posts described the difference between symptom medicines and disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs).

Big gun DMARDs for Rheumatoid Arthritis include Biologics like Enbrel, Humira, and Rituxan, and Orencia and methotrexate and other chemical therapies.  These medicines interfere with the autoimmune activity of RA in various ways. Some of them inhibit specific immune cells such as TNF or T-cells or B-cells. Others reduce the overactive immune activity in a more general way.

3 Reasons to fight with Rheumatoid Arthritis medicines early

1) Damage:

Rheumatoid Arthritis medicines may help prevent or delay damage to joints or other systems. Damage often occurs before symptoms are severe enough to recognize. Damage is permanent and will likely require further treatment such as steroid injections or surgeries.

2) Remissions:

Both early and long term use of DMARDs are liable to increase likelihood of Rheumatoid Arthritis remission.  Remissions vary in length and quality. However, any remission would be better than none.

3) Prognosis:

Early Rheumatoid Arthritis treatment is believed to be the greatest opportunity for disease modification. Many doctors believe that very early treatment of what they call “very early Rheumatoid Arthritis” can cause the disease to be less severe long term. This may mean more remissions, fewer flares, fewer surgeries, less steroids… a better prognosis overall.

Kelly’s article on HCP live: Early Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis Is an Elusive Goal

Recommended reading:

Kelly O'Neill Young

Kelly O'Neill (formerly Kelly Young) has worked over 10 years as an advocate helping patients to be better informed and have a greater voice in their healthcare. She is the author of the best-selling book Rheumatoid Arthritis Unmasked: 10 Dangers of Rheumatoid Disease. Kelly received national acknowledgement with the 2011 WebMD Health Hero award. She is the president of the Rheumatoid Patient Foundation. Through her writing and speaking, she builds a more accurate awareness of rheumatoid disease (RD) aka rheumatoid arthritis (RA) geared toward the public and medical community; creates ways to empower patients to advocate for improved diagnosis and treatment; and brings recognition and visibility to the RA patient journey. In addition to RA Warrior, she writes periodically for newsletters, magazines, and websites. There are over 60,000 connections of her highly interactive Facebook page. You can also connect with Kelly by on Twitter or YouTube, or LinkedIn. She created the hashtag: #rheum. Kelly is a mother of five, longtime home-schooler, NASA enthusiast, and NFL fan. She has lived over thirteen years with unrelenting RD. See also https:/rawarrior.com/kelly-young-press/

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28 thoughts on “3 Reasons to Begin Using Rheumatoid Arthritis Medicines to Fight the Disease

  • December 15, 2009 at 8:46 am
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    Thanks for posting, Many close friends and family members think I am being misled into taking the medications, especially since many of them have only seen me once or twice with visible swelling and warped hands and the prednisone took care of that pretty quickly.. Most of my complaints are not visible with the exception of this eye problem I have and to those who have no understanding it seems like massive overkill. Just last night my husband and I agreed when I don’t feel well we are not going to tell people why anymore since we have had it with the misinformed debates we keep finding ourselves in.

    Reply
    • December 15, 2009 at 8:58 am
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      Francesca,
      That is a very good point. There are probably several different things that pull us in the other direction. Pressure from those who don’t understand that RA is a harmful disease is one of them. I was just stating a bottom line since doctors tell me that much of the damage of RA is not inevitable any more. But it would be good to talk about the reasons why too. There is one post on denial, but that is only one reason people don’t treat.

      You are being brave and fighting. You are doing the right thing. Sorry you have to deal w/these “debates” on top of it.

      Reply
  • December 15, 2009 at 8:51 am
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    Kelly, how are you feeling these days and are you back on your meds yet since you had that cold? Curious if you are feeling? And Kell

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    • December 15, 2009 at 10:20 am
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      Hoping to go back on them tomorrow. Still coughing up crud. So, I’ll stay on the expectorant, though. :razzmad:

      Reply
  • December 15, 2009 at 8:52 am
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    PS. And Kelly do you have those days when the pain is so bad that you need to take any pain pills? Thanks for answering

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    • December 15, 2009 at 10:30 am
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      I know many people who use strong pain meds. There is a place for them w/RA. Here is the important point: we need to get as much disease control as possible so that we need as little symptom meds as possible. I figure for the cost (money or side effects) I might as well attack the RA itself.

      If we need lots of pain meds, then the doc should be trying to help find a better way to attack the disease. Some of us continue to suffer w/RA that’s called unrelenting which does not respond as well to the DMARDs.

      Since I have physical reactions to opiates, etc. I take high doses of NSAIDs for the leftover pain.

      Reply
  • December 15, 2009 at 10:24 am
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    I went to see my rheumatologist last Friday, my CRP was still elevated, even with all the big gun meds I am taking!!! He changed me from Humira to Cimzia. Started it in the office right then! 2 injections then, again in 2 weeks and then again in 2weeks and then begin once a month. One thing I can say is that it does not burn like the Humira and Enbrel! No welp or bruising! I will keep you posted on how it is working with me and my lovely disease. Of course, my prednisone was increased to 7.5 dailyX 1week the lowered back to 5mg daily, we do that every 3 months anyway. Hope this will allow me to have a Merry Christmas 🙂 And I want to wish everyone else a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, may your RA take a well needed break and give us one too!!!!!

    Reply
    • December 15, 2009 at 10:35 am
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      Thank you for the update Jane! :rainbow:

      Weird thing about that test. It can remain normal for some even when symptoms are very bad. For others, it is high even when they feel good. And it doesn’t correspond w/ some other indicators of disease activity. This test seems an indicator we don’t fully understand since it’s not a reliable measure of disease activity.

      Merry Christmas to you too!! :present:

      Reply
    • December 15, 2009 at 1:21 pm
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      Jane, I hope Cimzia works for you. I switched from Enbrel to Cimzia in October and so far so good. I find that the needle doesn’t hurt but the med burns when I inject it.
      Andrew

      Reply
  • December 15, 2009 at 2:35 pm
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    Thanks Kelly, for this timely post. I had an appt. today with my Dr. and I’ve been fretting that perhaps my RA wasn’t caught soon enough. I brought her all of the x-rays that have been taken over the past few years. She appreciated that and was able to re-assure me that: 1. I really do have RA (so it isn’t all in my head) and, 2. That it is early in process and the damage is quite minimal.

    We are still upping the MTX bit by bit and I was given the TB test today in preparation for the next step of biologics. She sent me home with info on my choices. She says that they are much the same, with Enbrel being the longest on the market and so most studied. Any idea on how to make the most informed choice?

    Thanks so much for doing these articles and I hope that you are finally feeling better!

    Reply
  • December 15, 2009 at 5:27 pm
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    Kelly, Can you tell me more about unrelenting RA? I was diagnosed in July and have almost become totally disabled already. I take 20 mg Prednisone, 8 mg MTX and 50 Enbrel (just had 3rd shot). I still have significant pain, burning and swelling that we can’t seem to get under control. I see my rheumy tomorrow, so any info you can give me would be great. Thanks. Anita

    Reply
  • December 15, 2009 at 10:49 pm
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    Exactly. “Hit it hard and fast” is the current thinking.

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  • December 15, 2009 at 10:56 pm
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    Kelly, you are so smart! And if you ever need a pic of “big guns” we have guns of various sizes (due to my husbands line of work), more than happy to take pics.

    Reply
  • December 18, 2009 at 4:43 pm
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    I have to thank you for all you do. I was just diagnosed with RA 3 months ago. I have experienced palindromic symptoms for 12 years but no one could diagnose it until now. I have a doctor now who I really trust and respect but starting methotrexate was intimidating to me. All your information is very helpful. I live in a small town and honestly don’t know anyone with RA and no one in my famiy has ever had it. Your website has been an answer to prayer. Thank you and Merry Christmas and God’s blessings in the new year.

    Reply
    • January 10, 2010 at 4:23 pm
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      Kay, I sorry I missed replying to you sooner. I hope you are doing better w/ the methotrexate – let us know. Happy New Year.

      Reply
  • June 26, 2010 at 11:15 am
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    Hi Kelly, I have been recently dx with RA. I just read your blog concerning the importance of using RA medicines.It has taken about eight months to get a RA dx.I realize that a lot of people have to go through much more to finally discover the answer to what’s wrong. Even though the labs returned as negative and the x-rays showed normal despite my pain. My rhummy was aware enough to be led to a dx by the symptoms that were persistent. Kelly, I read your emails and am glad to connect with the knowledge you share with others who are new to this and probably ask old questions, but I am afraid to take the medicine prescribed. The methotrexate from what Ive read is awful. Maybe I’m in denial about the whole RA dx. I guess I wanted my dr. to prescribe something that I could take to tolerate the pain and swelling of my toes and hands.( I dont know what that could be. Ive tried lots of other medicines before this dx) I am afraid of what I read about the medicines against this disease. I am a 55 year old woman who has battled many obstacles in my life. I hope to be as strong a warrior as you are as time goes on. My meds are 2.5 mg of methotrexate 6 tabs every 7 days and folic acid 1 mg. I will keep reading to gain more knowledge about RA and the wisdom behind using these strong medicines. Thank you Kelly for being there.

    Reply
    • June 26, 2010 at 1:09 pm
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      Debra, thank you for bringing your questions up here. It’s better to face the questions & doubts than let them scare you or wonder if you’re doing the right thing.

      I wish I could sit with you and ask you what you read that made you afraid. Here’s a few things I can think of that might help you get past this. One, try to use facts to help you face down the fears. The more good information you get about your RA or the treatment, the more confident you can be in your decision. You could read on reputable websites or ask you doctor things like, “how will this medicine help me?” Second, try not to focus on the worst things you’ve read. They probably won’t happen to you and they may not even be accurate. I’ve read some things just based on fear. Finally, is there any one you can talk to about how you feel? It’s a normal feeling during this big adjustment.

      I hope that helps a little. I’d love to hear how you are doing.

      Reply
      • January 18, 2013 at 10:38 pm
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        Hi Just went to the RA Doctor today they are putting me on Remicade every two weeks to see it that will kick it out! Still swelling especially on my hands. Hope it works!

        Deb

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  • October 14, 2010 at 10:09 am
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    I agree! I too sm terrified of starting biologics, and other medicines like prednisone long term also scare me. After reading many others stories of fighting RA with the different meds, and even now with people not getting better or seeming to not have much improvement makes me leery.
    My new RA Doc just pointed out to me that the MTX by itself is not doing the job. My other rummy upped my dosage and my new doc said it is a waste because it is too much MTX. He wants me to ASAP start the biologics, but as you know the process is not like flicking on a light switch. I have no insurance for meds, and until now that was okay, so there are things to be worked out. The one thing he pointed out to me, as a matter of thought is that the effects of RA and what is does and can do to the body are much more damaging than using any bioogic medicines. His stressing the importance of medications made me think twice about how I had felt. RA seems to be presented as a joint disease!! It is not!!! I don’t know what to call it, but joints are just part of an array of effects RA has on the body. We as, pointed out in many of your blogs are not just fighting joint damage. It can be like getting up one day and feeling a hurt in a different place that never hurt before or it attacking a finger, wrist or toes. Imagine that to be the same thing as our eyesight our heart, our lungs or other of our unseen body parts. For some reason my new Rumy struck home for the first time. His stern and caring attitude about RA was of one to never be afraid of the medicines, but the culprit is the actual RA and the damage it can do in an instant to the body. As he suggested, I do pray that I can get started on the biologics ASAP! Thank you for all the help and information Kelly.

    Reply
    • October 14, 2010 at 10:42 am
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      That sounds like a great doc, Robyn. I was so glad to hear the way you described him. He sounds like a warrior for us. Please let us know how it goes so we can keep pulling for you, too.

      Reply
  • April 27, 2011 at 5:47 pm
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    OK. I am loving this site. I just found my new best friends. I was Dx when I was 18 and a freshman in college. I had been very active in high school. Not sports ;), senior class president, etc. then the onset DEVASTATING to say the least. Twenty-nine years later, the disease has not done as much damage as I’ve seen others suffer. Early Dx and early DMARDs. Now I get it. Two knee replacements later I have regained a great deal of mobility and sometimes forget what it was like before TKR (total knee replacements).

    Reply
  • January 19, 2013 at 12:51 pm
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    I just read all the problems that could happen with taking Remicade it is pretty scary stuff. My other option is to take another type of drug not sure the name is? but pill form one of the possiable side effects weight loss maybe.
    Deb

    Reply
  • November 9, 2013 at 9:53 am
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    Interesting topic.
    I developed arthritis symptoms after high fever along with allergenic reaction to ibuprofen. (chickengunea was ruled out with lab test) after all tests arthritis was ruled out but the symptom exist even after 12 weeks and I am under medication along with pain relief regimen.

    please supply me with any other information

    Thanks for information
    chandar

    Reply
  • Pingback: Fight RA From The Beginning | Lovely Joints

  • February 26, 2017 at 9:37 pm
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    I was diagnosed in late October with RA. I finally was able to see the Rheumatologist in Dec. In the mean time I researched the symptoms and treatment for RA. I was not happy with what I found regarding methodextrate. When I met the doctor and we discussed meds, I told her I prefer not to take it and would rather have plaquenil. She said the severity of my symptoms would need something stroner than plaquenil and suggest leflunomide. I have been on this for 9 weeks and it has helped tremendously. I am able to open jars, reach above my head, so many things I could not do a month ago. When my RA first appeared, it came on like gang busters. It was both wrists, most fingers, both elbows, my right shoulder, my left knee, both ankles and most toes. I do have a couple questions…..has anyone had it affect the sternum? I had a thoracotomy ten years ago and have pain still from that, but the last couple days even aleve will not help the pain. The other question…year before last from October until December I had acute pain from one side to the other side of my chest. It was so bad that my husband had to help me sit from a lying position. I was put on muscle relaxers after xrays came back negative. I am now wondering if this could have been RA related?

    Reply
  • April 8, 2017 at 1:50 pm
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    Why do the Insurance companies insist on certain meds when your Dr recommends something else because they are treating you and know your case far better!
    I know it’s, $ – bit it’s your life!! We need medicine fast and the right one.

    Reply
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