We are often asked if it is necessary to have ongoing blood work while on disease modifying treatments for autoimmune conditions.
Blood work is one part of understanding how well your condition is being managed, as well as watching for any changes that may be due to your treatment. Blood work alone of course, never tells the full story, as your symptoms along with an examination of your joints in the case of arthritic conditions or a scope in the case of inflammatory bowel diseases is needed to understand the full picture.
The reason why we need the blood work on a regular basis (often every 1-3 months) is that there may be changes in your liver or kidney function, white or red blood cells etc., that you cannot feel and by spotting these changes early in your blood work, changes in your treatment can be made before any damage is caused.
We also use blood work before starting treatments to see if you have any underlying infections that you were unaware of, such as, hepatitis or HIV. There is even a blood test (Quantiferon Gold) for detecting tuberculosis. Disease modifying medications, such as biologics do not cause these infections, but if you already unknowingly were infected, they could make these infections worse. These blood tests are called screening tests and in some patients they may be repeated on an annual basis.
Carolyn Whiskin is the Pharmacy Manager for Charlton Health. Carolyn specializes in the treatment of autoimmune diseases, pharmaceutical compounding, women’s health, pain and smoking cessation. Carolyn has won provincial and national awards for her commitment to patient care and public service.