I have been doing really well with the new medication that I started in the fall. For the first time ever, I have a normal CRP (C-Reactive Protein) showing my inflammation is down. Even better: I have been feeling pretty good.
Being in immunosuppressants
But I can’t seem to handle that! I have been waiting for the other shoe to drop. And it may have. Twice in the last two months, I’ve had colds. Perhaps more, if you count some other small bugs. This last week I’ve been down and out with a chest cold (or another nasty bug). I think I have reached the point where I’m seeing the autoimmune suppression aspect of my medication.
While I was on previous treatments I experienced the dreaded disappearance of my immunity. I would catch bugs, colds, viruses, and (one time) pneumonia. It was a sort of countdown. Each week that passed on the medication I’d be on the lookout for sniffles or something. I joked that I could tell the previous medications didn’t work because I didn’t get sick often enough!
Coping with a suppressed immune system
With some trial and error, I have adopted some coping mechanisms to the autoimmune suppression. I take multivitamin, probiotic, and vitamin C supplements to help support my immune system. (Careful: be sure to consult with a doctor on any supplements. Some actually aggravate the immune system and can worsen rheumatoid arthritis.)
Some habits to consider
I think some habits can also help. I’m vigilant about hand washing and not touching anything unnecessarily. (For example, I don’t touch pens or tablets at the doctor’s office. When was the last time those things were cleaned? I either ask for help or bring my own.) As crazy as it may sound, I try to stay away from obviously sick people. This can be impossible when commuting via public transit, but I do what I can to keep out of the line of errant coughs and sneezes.
However, I think with the super-effectiveness of my new medication (hurray!) I may be entering a new universe when it comes to catching bugs and illnesses. I may need to see if I can amp up my game to protect myself better.
Having RA symptom control vs. being immunocompromised: why do I have to pick?
As annoyed as I am with all these colds and bugs, I still find my medication very worth it. I feel so much better—less pain, stiffness, and fatigue. I am starting to remember what it felt like before! It is quite a relief.
But I can’t forget the danger that comes with communicable illnesses. When I last saw my doctor he made me promise to call him immediately if I should get a fever or other signs of infection. With my current medications and four joint replacements (both hips and both knees), infections can be extremely dangerous.
The trouble is, I don’t think my body is registering fevers anymore because of the RA medication. I experienced this on other treatments and it seems to be continuing with my current medication. There have been times I felt like I was having a fever, but the thermometer said I was normal. It’s a tricky thing when a fever is suppressed by medication, as this is a warning sign I need for when I am seriously ill.
So far, I have had to trust my gut and experience in knowing how I feel, how to treat bugs, and when to seek help. I am hoping that maybe my recent spate of illness is temporary or the signs of a bad winter that will soon fade into spring. But I will continue to be careful and see what I can do to stay healthy and bug-free.
On a scale of 1(low) to 5(high), how difficult is it for you to talk about having RA?