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What should patients know if taking immunosuppressive therapy?

Published on April 2, 2010

James Bowen, MD – MS Center, Swedish Neuroscience Institute:

I think one of the important things to remember about this is that these medicines are not designed to make you feel better. So if you still have the symptoms that you had before, that’s not unexpected. There are treatments for those symptoms, but the immunosuppressive drugs are really intended to prevent future problems down the road from the underlying disease itself. Another important thing is to realize that each of these drugs has unique side effects and you should become familiar with those side effects for whichever of these medications that you’re on. They also each have different monitoring requirements and you should also know what those are so that you can plan your schedule to get your blood test at the appropriate time.

Finally, you should know how to get ahold of your doctor’s office. This usually doesn’t mean talking to the doctor directly, but rather to the staff in the doctor’s office so that you can let them know should you have a side effect or some other problem. One of the most important side effects that we look for are signs of infection. So if you have an infection, you will need to know how to get ahold of the doctor’s office quickly so you can get that treated. Also, if you have some symptom of an infection, but you’re not sure exactly which part of your body might have the infection, you should know that we frequently look at the bladder because that’s an area that an infection could hide and you might not be aware of it. So anyway, if you have any fevers or signs of infection, contact your doctor’s office about that.

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