Posted in nonsense, rheumatoid arthritis

What happened to my immune system?


There are days when my immune system does not have any idea what it should do. These are the days when I feel my worst, when I wish I remembered days that I actually felt healthy. It seems like it has been quite some time since I felt healthy, that is assuming I ever was healthy.

I think we are a long ways from knowing why some people have immune systems that cannot distinguish healthy cells from sick ones. The only thing that scientists really know is that autoimmune diseases are not contagious. There are scientists, however, who think that our genes and environmental factors play a role. Certain genes can make a person at higher risk for developing an autoimmune disease but those genes don’t come into play until something triggers the immune system into haywire mode.

In healthy people, the immune defenses protect the cells from outside invaders. With persons who develop autoimmunity, the immune system mistakes the body’s own cells instead of working towards protecting them. There is a school of thought that links certain environmental agents as triggers to autoimmunity. Because environmental triggers only pose a small risk, the gene factor is important to the development of autoimmunity.

Add medications that suppress the immune system to the mix, and you have a ticking time bomb. I am going around six months with Humira and while I have noticed an improvement in my condition, I worry about the side effects having a suppressed immune system. It is actually somewhat scary but the only options I have if I want to keep taking Humira are (1) wear a mask when out in public; (2) don’t go out in public, or (3) pay attention to how I am feeling on any given day.

With Humira, the body becomes more susceptible to developing an upper respiratory infections and even more susceptible to colds and the flu. Despite taking the flu shot this winter, this is my third time getting sick leaving me to wonder whether Humira is worth taking. Most importantly, what happened to my immune system? With RA, there are trade-offs. One part of the body feels better and another feels worse. There is never a winning scenario for an RA’er.

Well, it is time for me to go back to reality and nurse my health. It looks like I will be skipping the Humira shot this week.

I just might give Dr. House a call. Either he will cure me or give me something to knock me out for several days.

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9 thoughts on “What happened to my immune system?

  1. … and of course, there's Dr. House's inimitable bedside manner. Snarling. Sarcastic. THAT'll get that screwy immune system of yours to straighten up and tow the line…I DO hope you'll be feeling better very soon, Lana. It's miserable to be sick AND fight off rheuma flares. You must be exhausted. Well, I'm sending you all the strength, patience and comfort that I can through the ether. Will it work? Hope so. At least as well as Dr. House, anyhoo…Smile. Take good, gentle care of yourself. And look for the gifts, OK?

  2. Lana, Thank you so much for your blog and your post. I have often thought of blogging about my [crappy] health issues – but I do not really want anyone to know how bad it is (including me.) Putting it in writing makes it very real.I get the whole URI nonsense. I have already been on antibiotics (the most powerful) and steroids several times this winter. The bronchitis crap does not go away but the tradeoff is worse.I would like to tell you – and I AM NOT A DOCTOR – but my GI Doc has told me to never skip my Humira dose because our bodies build a tolerance to Humira. If we go without it or skip doses, etc, it changes the way that it works for us and it will not be as effective.Even with pneumonia he has told me "do not skip a shot."It will not (although I have waited an extra day or two when I have had really bad URI) but it will not make a difference overall to skip a shot for the week to help me to get better from my sick, because it affects my immune system overall. In other words, my immune system is already weakened, so skipping the shot will not make it get better.I found your blog because I did a Google Alert on Humira. Even though I have been using it for two years, it still scares the hell out of me. I take a lot of drugs, but most of them have been around for a very, very, very long time so there is ample evidence on what they do and their side effects and any long term damage that they may cause.Humira, OTH, is a new drug and who the hell knows what it is going to end up doing to me long term. I cannot describe it, really, but I get the same apprehension every single time that I give myself the shot. The same worry that "this might not be a good idea."However, by the end of the two weeks I am also desperate to take the shot because my symptoms are so much worse.My docs want me to take it weekly instead of every other week and I spent a long time fighting my insurance company to make that happen – then I gave up because I was just too sick to deal.The "My Humira" program was going to help me because apparently I am "underinsured" (tho we pay plenty to be insured) but I was too ill to even pursue their assistance. I may revisit it because for the short period of time that I did use it weekly, it was very helpful, I could tell the difference, then they let me know that I was "not approved" for it weekly.I would recommend checking with your Rheumatologist before changing any meds in any way. Please. I would hate to have skipping your dose make the med non-effective for you. Especially since you have found something that helps.Again, I thank you for your blog and I will come back often.Anjha

  3. Thank you Anjha for visiting my blog. Please visit often. I write about my ups and downs with RA and FMS because there are alot of people out there who feel like they are alone in how they feel. My openness is something I know is harder for others. I have learned that is okay to feel distraught by the challenges, but I shouldn't let it consume me.

  4. Lana, so sorry to read you're sick again. House is great, even if he is a hollywood doc. Having RA is not for the weak. Your immune system has turned on your body so, through medications, we disable our immune system in hopes of catching a good day every now and then. As you have mentioned, the side effects from all of these medications are often worse that the disease. I came down with pneumonia 2 years into Enbrel and didn't think I was ever going to get over it. I also take Methotrexate and have discovered that sometimes a simple cut or slice on your finger will take a couple of weeks to heal. Take good care of yourself, spring is coming soon. I've almost forgot what the sun looks like, this winter has been so cold and gloomy.

  5. Thank you Terry. Unfortunately, the world keeps moving no matter how sick I get so I have to keep moving. While I would like to hide under my covers until next week, I don't have much of a choice. What scares me is that my RA is going to get worse. I am okay with dealing with what I deal with now, but I don't know where I will be a year from now.Thank you Terry and everyone for your well wishes. As you know, I am still moving despite the obtacles that get thrown my way. The longer I live with RA, the more I learn to swerve.

  6. Good morning Lana.In my Google alert this morning is this article. The article relates a study in which Humira antibodies present in patients with Plaque Psoriasis. It recommends that patients using Humira be tested for antibodies, because, obviously, antibodies mean that our bodies have developed a resistance or a tolerance to the drug.I do not know if this is related to what my Doc told me about people developing a tolerance if they go off the drug and then go back on it – the article did not say if the study looked at this data. It does recommend that we get tested tho.I am going to contact my Doc and ask about being tested for antibodies just because I do not want to be injecting a med that carries so much risk when it may not even be effective for me anymore.I have noticed that over the two year period that I have been on it that it is not as affective as it once was. I thought that maybe I was just used to it or that my disease is just in major flare, but, perhaps I have developed a tolerance. ?!?!I hope that you are feeling better today. I also wanted to thank you for welcoming me with open arms.

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