Feeling OK means your medications are working -- and you should keep taking them. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic medical condition. Treatment can keep your symptoms under control, giving you more good days. But the drugs don't cure RA; they can't make it go away forever. Your medications are your key to keeping your RA under control. However, you may be able to reduce the dosage if you stay symptom free.
When did you last have an RA flare?
Studies show that people who stop their disease-modifying medications are likely to have a flare of symptoms 4 to 8 weeks later, according to the Arthritis Foundation. If your disease becomes active, you face an increased risk of permanent damage to your joints. So stopping your medications isn't a good idea. But you may be able to reduce your dose. Your doctor will first want to know how long it's been since you had any symptoms, and do some tests. If everything looks great, your doctor may slowly lower the dose of your medications, usually starting with any NSAID pain reliever you may take.
You want to keep a constant and effective level of your RA drugs in your system, so any reduction in dose would be very gradual. You can help keep that effective level constant by taking your medications at the same time every day.
Are you having any trouble with side effects from your RA medications?
If you are thinking of cutting back on RA drugs because of side effects, tell your doctor about the problems you're having. It's a challenge almost everyone with RA faces: how to balance the benefits of medication with the side effects. Your doctor may be able to adjust your medications, or make a change to ease any side effects.
For example, many drugs used to treat RA can cause upset stomach. To help, your doctor may suggest changing the time of day you take the drug, or tell you to take it with food. Sometimes doctors will suggest you take medicine to reduce nausea and stomach acid.
Do you use any simple reminders to help you take medicine on schedule?
It's ironic but true: Sometimes when we feel better and get busy, we forget to take the medications that helped us feel better in the first place. Look over these simple tips and see if any would make life with RA easier for you.
- Use a pillbox to track when and what medicine to take.
- Pair your medications with a daily event -- like brushing your teeth or breakfast -- to be sure you take them at the same time every day.
- Program a reminder alarm in your cell phone, computer, or digital watch.
- When you refill your prescriptions, make a note on your calendar when to order the next refill so you don’t run out.