Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Daily dose (of medication)

In keeping with the drug theme of the week, let me announce that January 2010 makes it official - I've now been diagnosed with systemic lupus for 9 years. And with that diagnosis has come 9 years of daily medication. There hasn't been one day since January of 2001 that I haven't taken medication for my disease. Today, I'm on the fewest number of prescriptions since my diagnosis (just two, plus a baby aspirin and calcium), so the idea of taking as few as 3-4 pills in the morning and another 4 at night makes me pretty darn happy. Because I've taken as many as 17 pills at a time, all prescribed and per doctor's orders, of course, I consider myself a pro when it comes to pill popping. But, I know, even if a doctor tells you that you need them, and even when they're working, the idea of ingesting all of those pills can still be, pardon the pun, tough to swallow. But in all of my days of pill popping, I've learned a few things. Here are just a few pointers for those of you suffering from medication mayhem:

1) Don't self-medicate (i.e. take medications NOT as prescribed). I know it's tempting, but it's in your best interest to follow doctor's orders, particularly where your medications are concerned. There's a reason your doctor is prescribing the pills in the manner in which he or she has, and it's going to make solving your lupus enigma a whole lot easier if you're doing what the doctor has intended. If you self-medicate, you're taking away the control that your doctor has put into place in order to determine how active your disease is, how your body is responding to the treatment thus far, and whether or not the treatment should continue. It also helps to determine what courses of treatment should be explored in the future - if medicine A doesn't work, medicine B might become an option. But if medicine A hasn't been taken as directed, the results you (and your body) are producing aren't accurate, thus muddying the waters as to what drug therapy might do the trick. Self-medicating can only complicate the process of treating and/or controlling your disease - why would you ever want to do that?

2) Get clarification. Assuming that you're putting your complete trust and confidence in your doctor to prescribe your medications appropriately (e.g. choosing NOT to self-medicate), you have every right to make sure you fully understand your doctor's intentions regarding each and every medication he/she prescribes. You should have a complete understanding of what's being prescribed, why, and how it's suppose to work. I'm not saying you have to pore over those little scientific flyers that come along with every medication, but you do need to make sure that all of your unanswered or lingering questions are addressed. Don't know exactly why a drug is being added to your regimen? Ask. Feel like a drug isn't working? Say so. Tend to think the crummy side-effects of a drug outweigh its benefits? Mention it. It's imperative that you work closely with your doctor to determine what the best course of treatment is for you. Not all meds work for everyone - and you're really the only one that can help your doctor determine how to proceed.

In fact, you may find that collaborating closely with your doctor opens up options that might not have ever come up. I can think of several instances where my doctor, as a result of my probing and pertinent questions, changed my prescription line-up in order to better address the issues at hand. And each change was for the better.

3) Don't be unduly influenced. I know you're on a lot of medications - probably more than your whole family combined. And maybe your family's not so keen on you taking all of those medications. But, here's the deal - as long as you're not self-medicating, and as long as you and your doctor are working together to ensure that the medications you are taking are necessary and effective, then you don't have anything to worry about. Now, that said - as most of you have read in blog posts past, my family was instrumental in helping me clear up many of my issues with lupus, including some of my medication mysteries. They were concerned about some prescriptions, disagreed about me taking others, but never, and I mean, never countered my decision once my doctor and I had decided on a course of action. I say, if you can explain to your family (or whomever is questioning your cocktail of drugs) why you're taking what you're taking, what each drug is supposed to do, whether or not it's effective, and what the plan is going forward (taking it in the short term, long term, until it reaches a certain level of efficacy), then you're in the clear. You can always consider what your family has to say, weigh their opinions carefully, and if you think they may be on to something, pose their concerns to your doctor or perhaps a pharmacist and see what the professionals have to say.

4) Do what you can, aside from the drugs. As I mentioned in the beginning, there hasn't been a day since 2001 that I haven't been treated with medication for my disease. And, as far as I can tell, that's the way it will be for the foreseeable future. And I'm alright with that. I figure I'm doing everything I can aside from the drugs to live well with lupus (eating healthy, exercising, getting my rest, watching my stress, making sure I understand my doctor's intentions in regard to the drugs I am on), so if I need the prescriptions I do to make my body go, so be it. But I'll tell you one thing - the minute I have to go up on my prednisone because I'm blogging too much, or add a cholesterol medication because I'm not watching what I eat, or introduce an anti-inflammatory because I'm skipping out on my rest - that's the moment I'm going to re-evaluate my drug therapy. Personally, I like my 4 little pills in the morning. And I intend to keep it that way.

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