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Enbrel: the key to alleviating the pain of five autoimmune disorders
Enbrel is a drug that is used to treat many medical conditions, all of which are autoimmune disorders. Autoimmune disorders occur when the body mistakes its own cells for a foreign invader and attacks them. The immune system sort of turns into a workaholic, working harder than it should and not in the right places either. Enbrel works by lowering your immune system. In a way, it helps the immune system relax a bit.
Enbrel is used to treat the following conditions:
- Rheumatoid Arthritis: a condition that causes the joints to hurt and swell.
- Plaque Psoriasis: a condition that causes red, dry, scaly skin.
- Psoriatic Arthritis: a condition that causes joints to hurt and swell, and can also cause red, thick skin with silvery scales.
- Anklyosing Spondylitis (AS): a condition that causes joints in the spine to hurt and swell.
- Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis: the most common form of childhood arthritis, with pain in at least 5 joints.
Depending on the condition it is treating, Enbrel takes effect within 2 weeks and can reach its full effectiveness within 6 months. It doesn't work for everyone, but again, depending on the condition being treated, it does help around 50-75% of those that take it.
What are the Side Effects?
Since it lowers your immune system, one of the side effects those taking it will often experience is to worsen any infections or other underlying conditions. For example, if you have Hepatitis B, it can cause it to become active. This is why it is important to make sure your doctor is aware of your full medical history. Then you can decide together whether Enbrel is the right choice.
Common reported side effects include
- nervous system problems
- blood problems
- autoimmune responses
- new or worsening psoriasis
- new or worsening heart failure
- allergic reactions
Another less common, but serious, side effect is that some people have developed a rare, fast growing type of cancer. This makes it imperative that you pay attention to any side effects you do experience, whether listed here or not, and communicate regularly with your doctor. Enbrel is a category B drug which means that it should be safe for use during pregnancy, but it isn't well-known if it is safe while breastfeeding.
How is it taken?
Enbrel is given as an injection. It comes either in a pen (a prefilled injector where the medication is already mixed and ready to use), a vial, or a prefilled syringe. It is usually injected twice a week. Your doctor will teach you how to prepare the medication (if applicable), and then how to inject it. It's very important to know exactly how to inject it before you take it home. All forms of Enbrel come with a subcutaneous needle, so that means it is small, thin, and injects just under the skin. While giving yourself an injection is never an exciting prospect, it isn't as bad as some of the bigger needles you may have seen. Once opened it must be stored in the refrigerator; not frozen or kept at room temperature, according to enbrel.com.
Though it doesn't work for everyone, Enbrel can significantly improve the quality of life for people with autoimmune disorders. Many patients share stories of joint damage stopping or slowing, or pain diminishing greatly so they are able to do all the things they want to do, but couldn't before. Life can be pretty miserable for those with autoimmune disorders, and Enbrel can help many people enjoy their lives again.
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