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Is it worth taking meds if my RA symptoms are mild?

Mild RA symptoms for 4 years, worth taking meds?

I have been fortunate to have had very mild RA symptoms for 4 years. I'm now 47 years old. I only have stiffness for a few minutes in my hands in the mornings and mild swelling and pain in my 2 pinkie fingers. I have been taking Plaquenil for 6 months without much improvement. They want to move me to other drugs with worse side effects but I hesitate since my symptoms are mild. Any one else in a similar situation? I know some studies push for aggressive treatment early on, but my worry is that our bodies tend to acclimate to drugs, so the more you take your body adjusts and then later when you really need them to work they may not be as effective. If anyone can shed some light I would appreciate it.

  1. Hi Clee:

    I certainly wouldn't tell you whether or nor to take the strong drugs. That is a personal decision. I'm surprised that your Rheumy wants you to take them though, if you do not need them.

    All I know is that I have 1 friend who has mild RA. He has has it for many years and he is about 78. We haven't talked about his RA for some time. I know that he told me about 6 years ago, that he does not use strong drugs for it. Just Tylenol or Aspirin, etc., when he needs it.

    I will email him in a couple days and ask him again.

    You are both Lucky and I'm happy for you.

    1. Hello Again:

      I just read some info about mild RA but it's not from this web site. It said that people with mild RA
      need to take the strong meds also to stop it from getting worse.

      I am going to email my friend about it though. Now I'm curious if he understood what his Dr. said.

      1. Hi clee. The decision on whether to pursue more aggressive treatment certainly belongs to you. It is great that you are seeking out information to make the best decision for you. In your case, the good news is that this decision is driven by lack of symptoms, as opposed to a growing list.

        The main reason aggressive treatment is recommended is to avoid future damage. Of course, treatments can come with their own costs. Our contributor Michael wrote about trying to figure out this balance in what he refers to as the risk to risk ratio: https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/living/the-risk-to-risk-ratio/.

        One of our other contributors, Carla, makes the case that it is prudent to do something to treat RA: https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/living/nothing-is-worse-than-nothing/. She is careful to note that she is not recommending a particular course of treatment, but rather, whether drugs or something natural, doing something beats the long-term damage of the alternative.

        Finally, Carla looks at the research behind the question of what to do about treatment when a person actually goes into remission (arguably the most extreme of mild RA situations): https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/living/remission-now-what/.

        Hope this information proves helpful. Please feel free, if you like, to keep us posted on your decision and how you are doing. Wishing you the best. Richard (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team)

        1. It took me 15 years of increasing pain, fatigue, and other symptoms to be diagnosed with RA + Fibromyalgia. It was early 2015 and for the following 3 1/2 years I took different dosis of Plaquenil and a variety of pain meds, all of which didn't seem to give any relief.
          Frustrated, I changed Rheumatologist. My new Dr. has tried to use an elimination process and prescribed meds for Arthritis and Gout to see if they could help ease two of my co-morbidities (Pseudo-gout and degenerated disks/vertebrae), but I didn't notice any noticeable decrease in pain level. Then, I was put on injected Methotrexate but the side effects were strong and I had to stop using it. My Dr. then suggested a Vectra DA test and the results indicated my RA is on the mild side, so she recommended to stop medication, as the recommended Plaquenil hadn't eased the symptoms and the 'mildness' of my RA doesn't grant the use of stronger drugs, considering the possible 'collateral' damage. I'll be seeing her again in six months.
          Half a year ago, in desperation, I decided to try pain management. Since I had already tried most of the usual painkillers over the years with little to no results, I was put on opioids (pills, patches, bucal films) and I went from having no relief to nasty side effects. I've finally decided to quit, given the lack of negligible results and the increasing risks of sudden death or OD at the prescribed dose.

          So, what's next for my non-agressive, seronegative RA?Bear and grin for the rest and hope it doesn't get worse? Keep monitoring with more Vectra test and fight my insurance, which refuses to pay the almost $1,000 tag (therefore increasing my stress level and making symptoms worse)? Wait for the disease to -slowly- erode my joints and try to repair the damage as needed?
          I have no clue and would welcome suggestions.

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