If you’re reading this, you’re probably already aware of the dangers associated with prescription arthritis drugs. But it never hurts to have all of the facts, so let’s arm ourselves with some information on many of the most common arthritis drugs and their potential side effects.
Steroids have been around since the discovery of cortisone in the 1950’s. Corticosteroids like Prednisone are synthetic drugs that decrease inflammation in the body by mimicking the action of the natural hormone cortisol. There are times that steroids are necessary in order to reduce inflammation that threatens to damage an organ like your heart or kidneys.
However steroids do have some debilitating potential side effects and the higher the dose, the greater the risk. Here’s just a few…
Eye damage (cataracts, glaucoma, blurred vision)
High blood pressure
Puffy, swollen face
Weight gain and hunger
Restlessness and anxiety
Osteoporosis (brittle bones) and bone loss
Decreased resistance to infections
If you already have osteoporosis or thinning bones, steroids could make it even worse. If your immune system is depressed by steroid use, you’re more likely to catch a cold or flu. You could also develop an infection like pneumonia. But if you’re suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, you already have a malfunctioning immune system! It doesn’t need the further assault of a high steroid dose.
If you find steroids less than enchanting, let’s consider NSAIDs…
NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories) came on to the scene with a lot of fanfare because they contained no steroids. They work by suppressing an enzyme that helps the body produce prostaglandins.
Certain types of prostaglandins are responsible for the pain and swelling of diseases like arthritis, so it would make sense to have less of them, right?
Problem is, prostaglandins serve other functions in the body. They protect your stomach lining. Without them, you could develop an ulcer. Even ordinary aspirin can cause your stomach to bleed if you take enough of it!
Heartburn, indigestion, vomiting, and diarrhea are also common side effects of NSAIDs. So what’s to be done now?
1999 saw the “new and improved” NSAIDs being released. They were supposed to be the perfect answer for patients seeking long-term pain relief.
COX-2 Inhibitors have fewer gastrointestinal side effects, so they were considered a safer alternative. Truly a great discovery for the new century!
Or at least until we learned that the most popular drug in the group, Vioxx (rofecoxib) increases our risk of heart attack and stroke. This was actually discovered in 2000, but it wasn’t until 2004 that Vioxx disappeared from the shelves. Patients are still suing the manufacturer for damages.
The future will probably see the release of newer, and hopefully safer arthritis drugs. No doubt the claims will be loud and long and maybe, this time, they’ll be justified.
However until medicine starts to look at the human body as a whole, we’ll continue to have these sorts of problems. Isolating a set of symptoms and trying to eliminate them, without addressing the root cause of the disease, can only create more problems than it solves.