When Side Effects Feel Worse Than Arthritis

Since the time I was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis, I feel like I've tried every medication under the sun. For years, I felt like a lab rat going from one treatment to another every few months. It was emotionally taxing to try new medications without seeing progress. There were even times my insurance wouldn't cover a new treatment until I had tried certain medicines. But in my opinion, the worst part was dealing with side effects on top of my usual pain.

It can be hard to deal with medications that don't agree with you. Sometimes, it feels like the side effects can become worse than the disease itself. It can be even more frustrating if your rheumatologist doesn't seem too sympathetic. Many times, it takes awhile to know if a medicine or treatment is working. It's an unfortunate waiting game. But in my experience, keeping track of my side effects helped my doctor and I decide whether or not I could continue a treatment. It also helped us figure out ways to treat the side effects of promising treatments.

How can you track side effects?

Keeping a diary is an invaluable way to track how a new medicine is settling. Issues such as reduced appetite can be hard to spot until it gets bad or you lose a lot of weight. Making a few quick notes every day can not only help you keep track of what's going on, but also help give your doctor insight into your day to day health. When one medication after another caused my appetite to completely disappear, keeping a food and weight diary helped my doctor and I find a routine between trying new medicines and allowing my body to detox.

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What can testing help you identify?

Make sure to go for regular blood tests when necessary. Many medications, such as methotrexate, require regular lab work. While it can be a pain, monitoring changes in blood and urine are critical to know your medicine isn't harming your body. Often, changes can happen silently. Unfortunately, I know firsthand how important regular testing is. There were a few medications that didn't agree with my kidneys, and thankfully I was able to come off of those quickly and detox due to my routine blood work. I know it's a pain, but it's so important to do.

Do the benefits outweigh the side effects?

Sometimes it is true that the benefits outweigh the side effects. If the medication is really worth taking, ask if there's any way to treat the side effects. Methotrexate is notorious for unpleasant side effects; however, there are many ways to deal with it. Since it's only taken once a week, many people have a routine that allows them to avoid side effects. The majority of people I know who take methotrexate take it at night so they can sleep off the worst of the side effects. Folic acid can often be used, which often helps side effects such as mouth ulcers.

How have my psoriatic arthritis treatments worked for me?

After years and years of fighting, I've finally found treatments that worked for me. Some people are lucky and find the right treatment for them on the first try, and some are like me and may take a while. I will never stop counting my blessings for the relief I have now. I still do deal with a lot of chronic pain, but it is so much more manageable than it once was. Holding on and persevering made all the difference for me.

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