Updates on Stopping Plaquenil as Treatment for RA

Last month, I reversed my previous decision (of course, with appropriate consultation with my rheumatologist and primary care) and decided to quit taking Plaquenil as one of the medications for my RA (with approval from my rheumatologist). The reasons for this, as I explained in my last article, were related to potential medicine interactions between Plaquenil and an SSRI I am taking.

And while it was nice to have one less medication to take, I’ve noticed a few side effects/problems that have arisen from not taking the Plaquenil anymore. These include increasing joint pain, increased swelling, a more difficult time waking up in the morning, headaches, and others. While these symptoms are not as bad as they were when I was first diagnosed with RA, it’s still painful and something that I did not want to relive or have in my life.

Stopping Plaquenil was a hard decision

As I referenced in my previous article about this topic, this was a difficult decision for me to make. I had a lot of side effects from taking Plaquenil that were not conducive to a productive and healthy life to me — even though Plaquenil definitely helped me feel better and alleviated a lot of the discomfort that I felt from having RA.

How do SSRI benefits and Plaquenil drawbacks compare?

With that, it shouldn’t have been too big of a surprise to learn that by not taking Plaquenil, I would experience a worsening of my RA symptoms. The question that I have to consider now is: Do the benefits of continuing to take my SSRI outweigh the negatives of not taking Plaquenil?

It’s hard to even answer this question because a lot of the reasons why I take the SSRI are tied up with my rheumatoid arthritis (among other things) and how that is progressing. If my RA gets worse, my mental health takes a nose-dive. If it’s doing okay, I start feeling better (and maybe part of taking the SSRI is about lessening the shifts and sways of those mood swings). It’s very complex, as you can see.

Choosing between chronic health conditions

Moreover, why should I even be in a situation where I have to decide which pain is worse? That’s basically what this boils down to - which pain causes me the least amount of trouble and pain. And I recognize that this might sound like I’m complaining, but I think a lot of people who have rheumatoid arthritis have other conditions as well that they have to consider — both in terms of pain and in medication — in addition to RA. I’m pretty sure (at least, I hope) I’m not the only one in this liminal position of having to deal with competing chronic illnesses.

While it’s hard to determine which is better for me — to take the SSRI or Plaquenil — I had to let the Plaquenil go, at least for right now. I think the overarching thing I’m learning through these experiences is that life is a series of choices and that I’m grateful to be aware of both of these conditions and to have the means to effectively treat them. While that doesn’t get rid of the pain, it helps at least to diminish it.

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