When you’re first diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), you’ll likely begin taking one of several drugs classified as DMARDs—disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs. DMARDs don’t work for everyone; they can also stop working as well after some time for some people.
At Rheumatology Solutions, our providers are happy to provide infusion services in a clean, comfortable infusion center, overseen by highly skilled and trained registered nurses. Patients often have questions about infusion therapy, and in this post, we answer some of the more common ones.
Why can’t I take a pill?
Some of the newer drugs used to treat RA are biologics. Traditional medications are small molecule drugs, which are chemical compounds. Biologics are large-molecule drugs and are derived from living cells.
Biologics behave like natural proteins within your immune system and work by blocking or inhibiting receptors, proteins, or specific cells that are known to play a role in inflammation. Biologics must be administered directly into your bloodstream, which is one of the reasons they can’t be taken in pill form.
Are biologics dangerous?
Like most drugs, biologics do have the potential to cause side effects. You may have a reaction at the infusion site, for example. However, these drugs have been approved by the FDA after having undergone rigorous safety testing. They aren’t especially dangerous.
Is relief immediate?
Unfortunately, infusions don’t usually provide immediate relief. Depending on the drug you take, it might be several months before you begin to see results.
The good news is that the infusion itself doesn’t hurt other than the needle stick when the nurse inserts your IV.
How long does it take?
The length of the infusion depends on a few different factors, including which drug you take. Several options are available to treat RA.
Some infusions only take about 30 minutes to administer, while others can take as long as four hours. The frequency of your infusions also depends on the type of drug you take. Many biologics are given more often at the beginning, then are spaced farther apart.
What kinds of side effects can I expect?
Side effects are a possibility, not a guarantee, so you may not have any side effects after your infusion. Also, different drugs carry different side effect risks. Infusions themselves can cause headache, nausea, rash, or redness and swelling where the needle enters your skin.
More serious and rarer side effects from biologics include:
- Difficulty breathing
- A feeling of tightness in your chest
- Swelling in your face and hands
- Fever and/or chills
One of the reasons infusions are given at our infusion center and overseen by registered nurses is so that you can be monitored and kept safe if any of these reactions occur.
Following your infusion, you may feel increased fatigue, but that usually goes away within a day or so.
Talk to us!
If your doctor has recommended infusion therapy to treat your RA and you have questions, please ask them. Our staff is always happy to answer your questions, and the benefits of infusion therapy nearly always outweigh the risks for patients who are experiencing worsening symptoms and degeneration.
Schedule your appointment at Rheumatology Solutions to learn more about infusion therapy and how it may be beneficial for you.