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RA Medication Basics


Why does my doctor make me get monthly blood tests?

Expert:   Linda Russell, MD, Hospital for Special Surgery »

Monthly blood tests can be a nuisance, but they help your doctor monitor your progress and watch for complications. Get the details.

Transcript: Blood tests were an important part of your initial rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis. Now, done REGULARLY, they help your doctor track your progress and how your body is reacting to your prescribed medications. If you’re taking a disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug, or DMARD, such as methotrexate or sulfasalazine, regular monthly blood tests ARE needed. Methotrexate may cause liver damage, so frequent blood work checks your liver and bone marrow for side effects and alerts your doctor if your body is reacting badly to this medication. Sulfasalazine may put you at higher risk for infections by reducing the number of disease-fighting white blood cells in your body. Blood tests every one to three months keep an eye on your immune strength. Regular blood tests are also necessary if you’re on BIOLOGICS because, like traditional DMARDs, they suppress your immune system response, putting you at risk for infection. Even when these risks are low and your lab tests have shown no history of problems, getting your blood tested monthly allows your doctor to keep close track of any changes in your body’s response to treatment. If you have rheumatoid arthritis, frequent blood tests can make you feel like a human pin cushion. But the lab tests that seem like a pain NOW can help prevent much more SERIOUS problems down the line. More »

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