Beating the Early Morning Blues and Other Tips for Methotrexate Users

In my last blog, I discussed the most common medication among Rheumatoid Arthritis patients: Methotrexate.  This drug is very beneficial to many (including myself), but it can have many side effects that sometimes require treatment themselves.  In today’s blog I want to share with you the tips I have picked up over the years I have taken Methotrexate.

We’ll cover all the side effects that I have encountered (I won’t give any tips that I do not actually have experience with) in order as they appeared on my last blog.  Therefore, we’ll start with nausea.

Nausea will occur in most patients at least initially.  Websites suggest that taking the medication after eating helps cut it down.  I actually try to eat a little, and then sneak in one pill every few bites.  I do not eat a whole lot while doing so as it can increase the nausea and likelihood of vomiting.  If you are taking the inject-able Methotrexate then this is not as much of a problem for you.  Although I still preferred to eat at least an hour before getting the shot.  (I would like to point out, however, that a lot of my nausea in these instances was brought on by the fear of the shot.  In other words, it was my head making me feel sick, not the medication.)

Definitely use a cold compress immediately after taking the Metho shot.  If you have severe nausea, it is also best to shake up your routine every week.  In other words, I liked to get a sip of Pepsi or a mint or something before getting the shot, however if I did this consecutively then I would start to associate the nausea I felt with the taste of mint or Pepsi.  This is not cool (I still can’t drink orange juice).  Try eating or drinking something different as often as possible.  Also, I began to associate the cold bag of peas we used as an ice pack with the nauseous feeling.  Crazy, I know, but every time I saw it, whether at home or at Walmart, I’d feel sick.  Change this up as well.  Try putting a cloth over it some weeks.  Some weeks don’t.  Some weeks use ice in a bag instead.  This helped cut back on that nauseous feeling for me quite a bit.

This stool was on sale at Kirkland's for $30 and is an essential tool in my morning routine.

Fatigue is a big one, especially since the disease itself can make us feel tired.  Those of us on TNF blockers get another dose of the sleepies.  This can make life hard, especially when you have a lot of responsibilities.  I think we are all in agreement that mornings are the absolute worst EVER.  Not only are we tired, but we’re also dealing with the stiffness of our joints that come with hours of lying still.

The best thing you can do  is to make mornings as easy as possible.  Do everything you can the night before: shower, straighten/blow dry your hair (ladies), lay out your clothes, etc.  Also, take a small water bottle with you to bed.  That way when you get up and it’s time to take your morning painkiller (etc.), you don’t have to go all the way into the kitchen to get one.  If you liked getting a shower in the mornings to loosen up, try getting a quick bath instead.  Stretch and work your joints for about ten minutes and you should get the same effect.  I actually run my hands under hot water for a few minutes when I first wake up.

A biggie for me in the mornings is being able to sit down.  Standing is exhausting.  I even try to change whilst sitting.  So get a stool for your bathroom, and you can send me a letter in the mail of thanks.  It has saved my college career (not literally, parents, so you can calm down if you’re reading this).  But seriously, I love it.  Kirkland’s has tons of cute stools like mine, including this one you can store things inside, and this one that is a steal for only $20.  And I absolutely adore this one:)

This organizer keeps me from wasting precious energy on rummaging for make up.

Notice I have all of my things within reach, I don’t have to go rummaging for my eyeliner or toothpaste.  I also have all of my toiletries handy in the plastic tub next to my stool, no getting up and down.

By following these tips, you’ll make getting ready in the mornings much easier, and you’ll save energy.  That way your body has a chance to wake up, and by the time you are out the door you should be feeling much better, instead of more worn out from having to get ready.

Sun sensitivity is next on my list.  This stunk to me to begin with because I’m already very pale naturally.  Obviously, if you experience this side effect that means you need to avoid exposure to the sun, tanning beds included.  Always always always wear sunscreen.  You do not want a sunburn times ten.  I don’t expect you to be stark white during the summer time either, which is why we have these lovely products called “fake tans.”  WHOA don’t run away just yet, there’s a few secrets to them that keep you from turning orange, and I have the years of experience to help you out.

Lotion self-tanners are much better if you have hand troubles. Holding down the nozzel on aerosol cans is stressful on achey joints.

First off, you need a good product.  I’ve used a few, but True Blue Spa’s “Strike Gold” self-tanning lotion is my fav.  You can find it at any Bath and Body Works store for about $15 (shop for this and similar products here).  They also have a gradual tanner called “Glow and Steady” that I like when I just want a little color.

Before using, get a shower and scrub really really really well.  It’ll make your tan last longer.  Once you’re good and clean, apply lotion all over your feet, your knees (but not the undersides), armpits, elbows, hands, and face.  Once you’ve done that, you’re good to start tanning.  You apply it just like a regular lotion, rubbing it in until it is even.  Apply everywhere desired, however, avoid the bottom of your feet.  Wait about ten minutes before dressing (nothing nice, you could rub some tan off onto it, however it will wash off if you use the product I mentioned), and then wait another ten or twenty before sitting on furniture, etc.  I try to use this product an hour before I go to bed so I don’t have to keep reminding myself to not sit on the furniture.  Shower the next day to rinse the residue left from the product, and you’ll have a nice, even, tan.

Lightheaded-ness is pretty rare , but I usually experienced it after lifting heavy objects from high places, or lifting them to high places.  So basically, the best way to combat this side effect is to prevent it.  Ask someone for help when lifting heavy things, do not stand for long amounts of time, and move slowly while standing up to avoid problems.  If you ever feel excessively lightheaded, call your physician or Rheumatologist.

I know this just sounds like I’m addicted to caffeine, but soda helps me when I get a Methotrexate headache (the only way I can tell it’s a headache caused by the Methotrexate is because it will occur the day of or the day after I take it).  I’ve proven this a few semesters ago.  I purposely quit soda and waited until I no longer had headaches from the lack of caffeine to test my theory, and it worked.  I’m interested in knowing if this helps anyone else or if I’m just a special case, so some feedback on this would be great.  ^_^

Both of these will help strenghten your hair, however the Bed Head products have a pump that make shampooing and conditioning easy for tender hands.

I’m sad to say it but the best way to prevent hairloss is to take as good of care of your hair as possible to reduce the effects.  I use Bed Head’s “Self Absorbed” shampoo and conditioner that is full of nutrients our hair needs.  (Find this product and many others from Bed Head here.)  It also comes in Arthritis friendly dispensers, pumps.  YES!  No longer does it hurt my bum thumb to pick up a heavy bottle, open the lid, turn it upside-down, and squeeze.  Thanks to this handy dispenser, all I gotta do is push the top.  Anyone else feel like writing a letter of thanks?  Besides that, try to take it easy on your hair.  Minimize the amount of hairspray you use, and how often you use blow dryers, straightener, curlers, hot rollers, etc. etc.  Also, when brushing out your hair, start from the bottom and work your way up.  This actually decreseas the amount of breakage you have.  Neat, huh?

As for any other symptoms, the best advice I can give is to call your doctor when they arise to make sure no serious complications are taking place.  Mouth sores caused by Metho can become infected easily, so keep a very close eye on them.  Your Rheumatologist will require you to have blood work done every three months to monitor any damage done to your liver, so I would not worry about that one.  Unless you continue to drink alcohol.  Then you’ve got a problem (no more than two drinks a month, else you could be putting your liver in danger).  And I’m pretty sure you need a liver.

I hope these tips become as beneficial to you as they have to me.  I also would like to encourage you to come back after trying a few and letting us all now how they worked out.  In addition, if you yourself have some tips we all would love to hear them! :)

Stay healthy

Cari

(EDIT: Just wanted to let you guys know that I’ve created a Facebook page for my blog, log into Facebook and click this link to see it.  Be sure to click “Join”!)

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11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Eva Fuell
    Feb 10, 2010 @ 00:32:00

    Love the blog! I am Jamie’s mom and she told me about you. You are a savvy young lady! I have psoriatic arthritis. It has a few differences from rheumatoid but is treated the same way. I was diagnosed at about 35. It was sudden and severe and hit me first in the hips. Psoriatic arthritis migrates and affects a joint on only one side of the body at a time (one hip, one elbow, one wrist) An adventure everyday! I do have one hint for metho users: folic acid. I took it everyday and it helped the nausea and I never had mouth sores. Also, you can’t emphasize enough the importance of not becoming pregnant while on metho. That is almost a guaranteed birth defect. I always took it on Wednesday night and had chills and crushing fatigue on Thursday afternoon. I made sure to never make appointments for anything on Thursday! I no longer take metho due to the liver damage but I believe it helped. I now take naproxen and Enbrel. I will definitely keep following your blog. Keep up the good work!

    Reply

  2. Moselle
    Feb 10, 2010 @ 23:23:03

    My name is Moselle, I’m 25 and have very severe Rheumatoid Arthritis. So much of my life has changed and there are many things I have had to adapt to. The worst thing for me to learn to deal with has been the feeling of being alone in this. Even though I have an incredibly supportive family, I can’t help but feel alone in this struggle. Being told I am an extreme case, the worst most doctors have seen, doesn’t help much either. Finding an online community of people who not only suffer what I do, but also have the courage and sense of humor to write about it has been so helpful to me. Finding your blog has made my week. Thanks for helping me feel less alone in this world. =)

    Reply

    • Cari Elliott
      Feb 11, 2010 @ 16:02:22

      Moselle, knowing that my blog you could help you that much has made my entire month. So thank you! :) I hope my blog continues to help. Keep fighting and stay strong!

      Reply

  3. Mandi
    Apr 12, 2010 @ 14:08:31

    Hi Cari!
    Thank you so so so so much for sharing your experiences on this blog :) I’ve been quietly stalking it now for about 2 weeks, as I was just diagnosed with moderate/severe RA. I’m 24, just graduating college as an art major, and kinda (ok.. a lot!) nervous/scared/worried about the diagnosis of this new disease. I am starting Methotrexate pills tonight for the very first time…. so, thankyou for sharing your experiences. I’m now following your blog, and patiently looking forward to any new posts :)

    Have a wonderful day!

    Mandi

    Reply

    • Cari Elliott
      Apr 22, 2010 @ 15:13:45

      Hey Mandi! I hope things are going well with the Methotrexate. So many of us have grown to love it, however begrudgingly so. I hope it does for you what it does for me and countless others.

      Thank you for reading! ^_^

      Reply

  4. Jenny Mills
    Jun 24, 2010 @ 23:56:47

    I am enjoying reading your blog, where did you get your organiser for the make up, l like the up beat feel of the blog and all the useful information and to know we can have people we can chat to and do not have to explain why!! all the time

    Reply

    • Cari Elliott
      Jun 28, 2010 @ 02:47:09

      Thank you very much, Jenny! I actually found the organizer at a local Merle Norman store. However, I’m pretty sure Walmart or Bed Bath & Beyond would have something similar. Thanks for reading!

      Reply

  5. vickidar
    Sep 08, 2010 @ 12:37:22

    Cari – Thank you for such a well written and inspirational blog. My 24 year old daughter has RA and I have passed your link along. I am astounded that neither of us had thought of a stool in the bathroom. Thank you!

    Reply

  6. Case
    Mar 17, 2011 @ 11:21:10

    I just read your article. Great information for those who are diagnosed with any type of arthritis and need some important tips. I was diaged with rheumatoid arthritis at age 25 and am now 61. I was just a young man with a wife and 2 children when diaged. I had no idea what this disease was, but soon found out after a consultation with a rheumatologist, and it really scared me when he told me what this disease could do a person. I will never forget that day. I remember being driven to the hospital by my wife and thought I had cancer or something like that because I had dropped to a weight of 115 lbs,was in tremendous pain and could not dress myself. So when I was diaged with Rheumatoid arthritis I was relieved that I did not have cancer. However my relief was short lived and During all these years with RA, have found out how truly devestating and life changing this disease can be. It affects all aspects of your life with family and friends, but you have to learn to live with it and adjust the best you can with the resources at hand. I am currently on methotrexate, have been for one and a half years and it has enabled me to function at a greater capacity.
    I was looking up more info on methotrexate when I ran across your article. After looking at your picture and how young you were, it reminded me of the day so long ago when I was diaged with this disease. You seemed to have adjusted really well and that is encouraging to see. Hang in there, keep postivie and I hope a cure is found in your life time. Thanks for your positive article.

    Reply

  7. morgan29
    Feb 27, 2014 @ 00:26:10

    hi i am 14 and last year i got very sick for the whole year bedridden and in a wheel chair. atleast 20 other kids in my area got it . but the disease attacked my thyroid others had there lungs and hearts attacked. since starting synthriod i felt better but i was still tired and i had a constant low grade fever. then about 2 months ago i woke up with what looked like trigger finger in my left index finger. its my writing hand so it was very hard to write with . my ortho doctor thought it was very strange a person my age would have this so i got referred to a rhuematology doctor . by now i am stiff all over and i have major fatigue . the doctors are almost cerain i have RA . i am scared cause my grandma has it and she is really sick . i am falling behind and school and failing math cause i cant concentrate not to mention all the school i miss plus i cant write so i go home early either out of exhaustion or my swollen hand cant write anymore. your article gives me hope i will definately be viewing you blog . i am going to homeschool for high school the stress of public school is wearing me out . i admire you for the strength it took to get through public school . sorry for the spelling both my hand are aching today .

    Reply

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