Hurry up and wait!

I’m late! Indeed, I am overdue in delivering week four of ‘things you might not know’!  This won’t actually shock anyone who knows me.  I’m always late paying parking tickets, and it’s virtually guaranteed that I will never return a library book on time.  I’m also behind on my running program, but that’s a story for another day.  Alas, this week, you’ll get back-to-back posts to make up for my tardiness.

Sometimes, it really doesn’t pay to be late, particularly when it comes to being diagnosed with arthritis. I have mentioned here before, inflammatory arthritis (such as rheumatoid arthritis) needs to be treated early and aggressively.  But did you know that some of the most effective medications can take weeks or even months to show results, and multiple medications might be needed to control the disease?  Here’s a great analogy from an Arthritis Society publication:

“Think of arthritis like a fire in the joints.  Imagine there was a fire in your kitchen. If you left it burning, it would eventually destroy the kitchen and likely spread to other rooms in the house. The same is true for rheumatoid arthritis. If you leave the fire of arthritis burning, it will eventually damage the bones and cartilage. The idea is to get the fire put out as quickly as possible to prevent the joints from becoming damaged. Again, if your kitchen was on fire, it might take two or three fire trucks with their hoses to put the fire out. The same is true for arthritis. It might take two or three different medications to put the fire out.”

There are many promising treatments available that can slow, or sometimes even stop, the progression of the disease.  Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are a class of medications used to treat inflammatory types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis. DMARDs slow down the biologic processes that cause the persistent inflammation (pain, swelling and stiffness) in the joints. DMARDs are important because they help to prevent damage to the joint.  (Unfortunately, DMARDs cannot fix joint damage that has already occurred.)  The challenge is, DMARDs generally work well but they take time to work. Most DMARDs will start to work in about six to 12 weeks, but some may take longer – up to three or four months.

Likewise, biologics are a class of medications specially designed to treat inflammatory types of arthritis.  Like DMARDs, biologics are used to suppress inflammation and help prevent damage to the joint, and the two can be combined.  But biologics also take time to work. Some people may notice the effects of the medication  within days or weeks, but others may take three to six months to feel the effects.

Six months is a long time to wait if your house is on fire.  That’s why early diagnosis and treatment is so important.  It’s also why continued research into arthritis treatment is necessary, hopefully to develop new treatment options that will work faster, to help minimize the amount of permanent damage that people suffer.

Thanks for reading.  Stay tuned for the next instalment.  I won’t make you wait so long this time 🙂

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