Has your doctor prescribed injectable medication to treat psoriatic arthritis (PsA)? If yes, you might feel nervous about giving yourself an injection. But there are steps you can take to make this treatment easier.
Take a moment to learn about nine strategies that may help you feel more comfortable and confident when using injectable medication.
Learning how to administer injectable medication is crucial to using them safely and confidently.
If your doctor or nurse practitioner prescribes an injectable medication, ask them to show you how to use it. Members of your healthcare team can also help you learn how to:
- store your medication
- prepare your medication
- dispose of used syringes
- recognize and manage potential side effects from treatment
If you have any questions, concerns, or fears about your medication, let your doctor or nurse practitioner know. They can help you learn about the potential benefits and risks of different treatment approaches. They can also share tips for following your chosen treatment plan.
If you develop side effects from treatment, your doctor or nurse practitioner might recommend changes to your prescribed treatment plan.
Depending on the type of medication you take, common injection sites include:
- upper thighs
- the backs of your upper arms
To limit pain and discomfort, rotate or alternate your injection sites. For example, if you give yourself an injection in your right thigh, avoid injecting the next dose of medication into the same spot. Instead, inject the next dose into your left thigh or another part of your body.
Your doctor or nurse practitioner can help you learn where to inject your medication.
If you’re experiencing an active flare of skin symptoms in certain parts of your body, try to avoid injecting those areas. This may help limit pain and discomfort.
It’s also best to avoid injecting areas that:
- are bruised
- are covered in scar tissue
- have visible blood vessels, such as veins
- have redness, swelling, tenderness, or broken skin
Some types of injectable medication should be stored in the refrigerator. But injecting cold medication into your body may raise the risk of an injection site reaction.
Ask your pharmacist where you should store your prescribed medication. If you keep your medication in the refrigerator, remove it about 30 minutes before you plan to take it. Allow it to come to room temperature before you inject it.
You can also warm your medication by tucking it under your arm for a few minutes.
To reduce sensitivity at the injection site, consider numbing the area with a cold compress before you inject your medication. To prepare a cold compress, wrap an ice cube or cold pack in a thin cloth or towel. Then apply this cold compress to the injection site for several minutes.
You may also find it helpful to apply an over-the-counter numbing cream that contains the ingredients lidocaine and prilocaine. Follow the package directions to apply the cream about an hour before your injection. Then wipe the cream off your skin before injecting your medication.
Firmly gripping and shaking the injection site before you inject your medication may also help. This creates a sensation that may distract you from the feeling of the needle.
Before you inject any medication, your doctor or nurse practitioner will advise you to clean the injection site with rubbing alcohol. This will help prevent infections.
After you clean the injection site, allow the alcohol to dry completely. Otherwise, it may cause a stinging or burning sensation when you inject the needle.
According to a small study published in the journal Rheumatology and Therapy, people who use self-injectable medication may experience less fear and anxiety if they develop a ritual or routine around taking their medication.
For example, you might find it helpful to choose a specific location in your home where you will take your medication. Administering your injections at the same time of day and following the same steps to every time may also help.
After taking injectable medication, you might develop redness, swelling, itching, or pain around the injection site. This kind of injection site reaction tends to be mild and usually resolves within a few days.
To treat the symptoms of a mild injection site reaction, it may help to:
- apply a cold compress
- apply a corticosteroid cream
- take an oral antihistamine to relieve itching
- take an over-the-counter pain reliever to relieve pain
Contact your doctor or nurse practitioner if the injection site reaction gets worse or it doesn’t get better after a few days. You should also let your doctor or nurse practitioner know if you develop signs of an infection, such as severe pain, severe swelling, pus, or fever.
In rare cases, injectable medications can cause serious allergic reactions. Call 911 if you develop any of the following signs or symptoms of a serious allergic reaction after taking your medication:
- swelling in your throat
- tightness in your chest
- trouble breathing
If you’d rather not give yourself injections, consider asking a friend, family member, or personal support worker to learn how to inject your medication.
You might also find it helpful to join an in-person or online support group for people who have PsA. They may be able to share tips for taking injectable medications and other strategies for managing the condition.
Several injectable medications are available to treat PsA. For many people, those medications can help relieve pain and other symptoms. If you feel nervous about taking an injectable medication, following the simple strategies above may help.
For more tips and support, talk to your healthcare team. Your doctor or other healthcare professionals can help you build the skills, knowledge, and confidence needed to effectively manage your condition.