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What are steroid injections?

Q) I am 80 years old and have suffered with rheumatoid arthritis for 16 years, for which I take a meloxicam tablet two or three days (and omeprazole to protect my stomach). This controls the arthritis quite well most of the time but after a bad flare up recently my GP suggested I go on steroid injections. I feel reluctant to do this and would be grateful for your comments.
Mr Wells, Crawley (Spring 2012)

A) Steroid injections (into muscles, not joints) are one way of controlling flare-ups of arthritis. Despite the relatively large dose of steroid injected, there are probably fewer side-effects taking steroids this way, as opposed to a daily oral dose. However, if you need steroids then your disease isn’t very well controlled. Disease control can be achieved with a number of drugs, not including meloxicam, and these therapies include methotrexatesulfasalazine and the biologics. It is possible you have had these, or your doctor feels they are too strong for you, and that is why the steroid injections have been suggested.

This answer was provided by Dr Philip Helliwell for the Spring 2012 edition of our magazine, Arthritis Today, and was correct at the time of publication.

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