Are You Living With Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Visit the ANSWER tool, a medication decision aid tool to help you find out if Methetrexate is the right treatment option for you.
The information provided here is designed to help you make informed decisions about your treatment plan and enable you to ask your healthcare team specific questions related to your care. This information is educational in nature; it applies to adults only. It cannot replace the knowledge and experience of your health care team.
If you have one or more joints that have been persistently painful or swollen for more than six weeks, please consult your doctor in order to obtain a formal diagnosis and treatment plan.
MEDICAL TREATMENT OF ARTHRITIS
Medical treatment of arthritis can be combined into two separate types. Drugs from both of these categories are often used in combination.
Treatment to Control Symptoms
Treatment to control the symptoms of pain, stiffness and swelling:
- Painkillers and anti-inflammatory medications are in this category.
- These medications may make you feel better, but they do not affect the course of the arthritis, nor will they prevent the damage to bones and joints that can occur with the disease.
Treatment to Control Arthritis
Treatment to control the disease include medications used primarily for the treatment of inflammatory arthritis, work to help prevent joint damage that can lead to deformities. They should help keep your joints healthy for many years to come.
Medications often take six weeks to six months to begin to have an effect. They work to address the root of the problem in inflammatory arthritis. Shutting down all the inflammatory processes can take a long time, but the result of healthy joints will be worth it.
USING MEDICATIONS WISELY
You have an essential role to play in the management of your arthritis. Start by learning to ask questions of your health care team, which includes your doctor and any other healthcare professionals, such as your pharmacist, who can provide expert information.
Sharing your medical history with your health care team:
- If you are taking medication for another long-term health problem (such as heart, liver, and kidney conditions, high blood pressure, ulcers, or asthma), you should discuss possible drug interactions with your health care team. You should also discuss specific allergies with them.
- If you are pregnant, thinking about becoming pregnant or breast-feeding, you must inform your health care team, since certain medications can be passed on through the placenta or the mother's milk.
- With age, there are natural changes which affect how our bodies assimilate medications. If you're 65 or older, it's important to discuss these issues with your health care team.
MANAGING TROUBLING SIDE EFFECTS
There are common side effects to most arthritis medications. Sometimes side effects can be related to too high a daily dosage. If the problem is dose-related, you can simply call and report the unwanted effect, and your doctor can discuss lowering your dose over the phone. If your doctor isn't available, check with your pharmacist to find out if you require immediate medical attention – be sure to seek advice before reducing your dosage.
The important thing to remember is that while there may be side effects associated with medications, there are even worse effects if your arthritis is allowed to progress unchecked by medication. Those effects may include excruciating pain and permanent joint damage leading to long-term disability.
Remember to report all dosage-related events to your health care team so that they have an accurate picture of how your medication is working for you. You may wish to keep a daily health record, in which you enter all the details and events pertaining to your condition, and how you're responding to treatment. Your treatment team will find such a record extremely useful in planning the course of your treatment.
BECOME AN INFORMED CONSUMER: YOUR CONTRACT WITH YOUR DOCTOR
A prescription is a kind of contract between you and your doctor, with each party accepting certain responsibilities:
Your Doctor's Responsibility:
- Ensure that you're fully and properly assessed so that he or she can recommend an appropriate treatment regimen
- Inform you about the risks and benefits associated with your medications and how they specifically apply to you
Before you take part in the decision to use your prescription, your responsibility is to:
- Understand why you're taking a given medication
- Know what you can expect from your medications, including any side effects
- Be prepared to take your medications as prescribed.
- Let your doctor know if you need more information or aren't taking your medications as prescribed.
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR HEALTH CARE TEAM
If necessary, book a separate appointment from your routine visits, so you can concentrate on having your questions answered, and take notes or tape-record the answers. You can also bring a family member or friend to take notes for you.
Here are a few questions to help you get started:
- Why do I need this medication? What could happen if I don't take it?
- Is there any written information available about the medication I am taking?
- How and when do I take it – and for how long?
- When will it start taking effect – how will I know the medication is working?
- What are some of the rare and common side effects? What should I watch for, and what should I do if they occur?
- Will this new medicine work safely with the other medicines I am taking? Are there any possible drug interactions? Be sure to take a complete list of all the medications you are taking, including prescribed and non-prescribed medications, health supplements and remedies.
- What foods, drinks, other medicines, alternate, supplementary or herbal remedies or activities should I avoid while taking this medication?