Why am I prescribed sulfasalazine?
Sulfasalazine can reduce the symptoms and slow the progress of rheumatoid arthritis and other types of arthritis, such as arthritis associated with psoriasis. The aim is to reduce the inflammation in your joints and decrease pain, swelling and stiffness.
When do I take sulfasalazine?
Sulfasalazine tablets should be taken with meals. Do not crush or chew the tablets. They should be swallowed whole.
What dose do I take?
Your doctor will advise you. Usually you will start on a low dose, for example 500mg (one tablet) daily, and your doctor will tell you how to increase the dose gradually. This is usually over a period of around 4 weeks. A typical dose would be 1g (2 tablets) twice daily.
Sulfasalazine is not a pain-killer. So if you are on pain-killers you can continue to take these as well, unless your doctor advises otherwise.
How long will sulfasalazine take to work?
Sulfasalazine does not work immediately. It may be at least 12 weeks before you notice any benefit.
What are the possible side-effects?
The commonest side-effects are feeling sick (nausea), diarrhoea, abdominal pain, dizziness, headache and rashes. These side-effects usually occur during the first 3 months of treatment. Occasionally sulfasalazine can affect the blood count (which means fewer blood cells are made).If you develop a sore throat or other infection, a fever, unexplained bruising or any other new symptoms, then you should report to your doctor as soon as possible. Side-effects caused by sulfasalazine may clear up if the dose is reduced or stopped.
Your urine may change colour (to orange) with sulfasalazine but this is nothing to worry about. Also, sulfasalazine may stain soft contact lenses yellow.
Do I need any special checks while on sulfasalazine?
Side-effects of sulfasalazine on the blood or liver may be picked up at an early stage by regular checks on your blood. Your doctor will arrange these very important tests. You may be asked to keep a record booklet with your blood test results. Bring this with you when you visit your doctor. You must not take sulfasalazine unless you are having regular checks.
Can I take other medicines along with sulfasalazine?
Most drugs can be taken safely. However, if you are to start any new drugs you should tell the doctor that you are taking sulfasalazine.
Does sulfasalazine affect fertility or pregnancy?
Sulfasalazine can cause a fall in sperm count, and so can lead to a temporary decrease in male fertility, but this is reversible on stopping the drug.
As almost all drugs carry some risk when used in pregnancy, it is best not to take sulfasalazine during pregnancy. However, if you are planning a family or you become pregnant while taking sulfasalazine, you should discuss this with your doctor as soon as possible. If you wish to breast-feed, you should ask your doctor for advice.