When the French Impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir developed rheumatoid arthritis in the 1890s, there was nothing but mineral baths, aspirin and red wine to ease his pain and prevent his hands from becoming deformed.
About 100 years later, in the 1980s, when heart surgeon Christian Barnard (he did the first-ever heart transplant) was forced to retire because of RA's crippling effects, treatment options were still limited. (Disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs, or DMRDs, such as methotrexate, were just coming into widespread and effective use.)
Now, in the past decade, 10 approved biologic medications have become game changers. They promise great benefits (with some risks, such as increased infections and some cancers) when other treatments don't work. This has made doctors and patients more optimistic about slowing joint damage, preserving mobility - and even achieving remission.
So why do more than half of RA patients stop taking their medication or grudgingly switch therapies within two years? Almost 40 percent report that their meds aren't working the way they want them to, and 20 percent say it's because they are worried about side effects.
But having to try a new combination of medications is not failure; with RA that's the process you have to go through to discover what works best for you. So let your doctor know your concerns and expectations and explain how your meds affect you. Chances are very good you will be rewarded with a new treatment plan that provides big improvements in your quality of life. Don't stop treatment; find out what works for you!
© King Features Syndicate