Paige Wyant

@paigewyant | contributor
Paige is passionate about helping people with chronic health issues share their stories and connect with one another.
Paige Wyant

Side Effects of Prednisone, and How to Combat Them

Medically reviewed by Dr. Kate Rowland, MD, MS, FAAFP For many of those who have taken prednisone due to chronic illness, cancer or other health issues, the experience could perhaps be described as a “love-hate relationship.” As Mighty contributor Rosie Koina wrote in her essay about the side effects she’s experienced, “I have very mixed feelings about prednisone. It is a wonder drug. But I hate having to take it.” Prednisone, a corticosteroid used as an anti-inflammatory or immunosuppressant, can do wonders for certain symptoms and conditions, sometimes bringing people relief when no other treatment will do the trick. But some have found this relief does come at the cost of several less-than-pleasant side effects, including weight gain, insomnia, mood changes and others. Fortunately, there are a number of measures you can take to cope with and combat many of the side effects prednisone can cause. We spoke with several medical experts as well as patients who know firsthand what the medication is like to find out how it works and how to navigate its effects. Of course, you should always speak with your doctor and discuss any underlying health concerns before starting or stopping prednisone because it can be dangerous to stop abruptly even if you’ve been taking it for two to three weeks or longer. While many people experience similar side effects, prednisone may affect everyone differently. It’s important to make your own decision (in conjunction with your doctor) and do what’s best for you and your health. Below, you’ll find a breakdown of all the topics we will cover in this piece. To navigate the article easily, we’ve included bookmarks to each section, so feel free to click on the topic you find most interesting, and the link will take you to that portion of the article. What Is Prednisone? Why Is Prednisone Prescribed? How Long Do You Take Prednisone? Is There Anyone Who Should Not Take Prednisone? What Are the Side Effects of Prednisone? How Can You Manage the Side Effects of Prednisone? General Coping Tips Coping With: Weight Gain Coping With: Bone Thinning and Osteoporosis Coping With: Difficulty Sleeping Coping With: Increased Risk of Infection How to Safely Stop Prednisone Benefits vs. Side Effects of Prednisone What Is Prednisone? Prednisone is a type of corticosteroid – a group of hormones produced either naturally in the adrenal cortex in your adrenal gland or in a medication form. Prednisone, a synthetic corticosteroid, works the same way as the stress hormone cortisol, the body’s natural corticosteroid, Amy Calabrese Donihi, PharmD, BCPS, FCCP, associate professor of pharmacy and therapeutics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy, explained to The Mighty. “Cortisol is definitely essential for normal body functioning,” said Dr. Donihi. It is produced in response to stress and helps the body regulate blood sugar, fight infection, respond to stressful situations (both physically and mentally) and control the metabolism of fat, protein and carbohydrates. When you take prednisone, the level of corticosteroids in your system rises above normal body amount levels. In these higher amounts, the corticosteroids begin reducing inflammation and lowering immune responses in the body, which may help some of your symptoms depending on your condition. Why Is Prednisone Prescribed? According to Donihi, prednisone is prescribed for a number of reasons. Many people with inflammatory or immune-related conditions may be familiar with the drug, as it is often used to help reduce inflammation and suppress immune system activity. This may be particularly helpful for people with autoimmune diseases such as asthma, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Prednisone is sometimes prescribed to treat certain types of cancer as well. People with Addison’s disease may also need to take prednisone, since their adrenal glands don’t produce enough cortisol. The prednisone serves as a synthetic replacement of that hormone to replace what the body isn’t making, preventing the body from going into an adrenal crisis. Prednisone is also commonly used in anti-rejection regimens for patients who have undergone an organ transplant. By suppressing the immune response, it helps prevent the body from rejecting the transplanted organ. How Long Do You Take Prednisone? The short answer? “It definitely varies patient to patient, and it depends exactly what it’s being used for,” explained Donihi. Some patients may require a short burst of prednisone for an exacerbation of their condition – for instance, an acute flare-up of asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). For someone with a longer-term health concern – perhaps an inflammatory disease like lupus or colitis – they might be prescribed a longer course of prednisone that lasts weeks or months rather than days. Is There Anyone Who Should Not Take Prednisone? Medication interactions with prednisone are not common. If your doctor believes you would benefit from prednisone, there’s typically no reason why it wouldn’t be prescribed. Though your doctor will likely monitor you closely while on prednisone, certain health conditions or risk factors may require you and your doctor to exercise additional caution, said Sanjay Sethi, M.D., professor of medicine and division chief of pulmonary/critical care/sleep medicine at the University at Buffalo in New York. Dr. Sethi explained to The Mighty that people who have conditions aggravated by the side effects of prednisone may be at risk. This includes people with diabetes, since prednisone can increase blood sugar levels, and mood disorders, since the drug can cause difficulty sleeping, irritability and, rarely, psychosis. If you’re worried about any potential side effects or changes in your symptoms, reach out to your doctor right away. Individuals with compromised immune systems may also be at a higher risk of contracting a disease or infection, as long-term prednisone use can further weaken the immune system. (Read more about protecting against infection below.) Most people should be clear to take prednisone if their doctor believes it will help them recover or reduce symptoms, but always bring up any concerns you may have with your physician. What Are the Side Effects of Prednisone? Donihi explained that some of the more common side effects of prednisone tend to be less serious. “You might experience them more in the short-term, and if you’re only taking the short course of the prednisone they’ll go away very quickly after you stop taking it,” she said. According to Donihi and Sethi, short-term side effects may include: Increased appetite Fluid retention or edema Upset stomach Acne Difficulty sleeping Tremors Sweating Rapid heartbeat Change in mood (either hyper or sad) Those taking prolonged courses of prednisone (longer than three weeks) may experience more serious side effects, such as: Eye problems, such as glaucoma or cataracts Mood changes, which can cause people to be more irritable, anxious or depressed Thinning of the skin, which can cause the skin to bruise more easily Elevated blood pressure Elevated glucose levels Weight gain (due to fluid retention and/or increased appetite) Redistribution of body fat to the face, abdomen or back of the neck (sometimes called a “buffalo hump”) Slower healing of cuts and bruises, which increases the risk of infection Osteoporosis, bone fractures, bone thinning and loss of bone Lowered immunity, which results in increased risk of infection To read more about how prednisone has affected people with chronic illness in our Mighty community, check out the stories below : 9 Side Effects of Prednisone I’ve Experienced How Prednisone Has Affected My Teeth Prednisone: The Marvelous Monster in My Life 6 Wacky Side Effects of Prednisone They Don’t Tell You About Dear Prednisone, I Would Not Be Where I Am Today Without You How Can You Manage the Side Effects of Prednisone? Whether it’s a set of general coping tips for living with prednisone or ways to combat specific symptoms like weight gain or having trouble sleeping, we have you covered. General Coping Tips Donihi shared several basic tips for ensuring your health and safety while taking prednisone – though this advice could apply to just about any medication. From carrying your medication info with you everywhere you go to making sure you check with a doctor before changing or stopping prednisone, here’s where you can start. 1. Carry a card with your medication name and dosage. Donihi recommended carrying a “medical information” card with the specific name and dosage of your prescription, especially if you’re taking prednisone (or any other drug) longer than two or three weeks. If you’re in an emergency situation or need to inform your healthcare providers about any current medications (see No. 2!), having the information handy could be a lifesaver – literally. 2. Tell all your healthcare providers you’re taking prednisone. If you followed step No. 1 and created a medical info card, show it to your doctor! Donihi said it’s critical for all your healthcare providers to know you’re taking prednisone – even the ones you might not think to tell, such as your dentist. Whether you’re considering a new medication, undergoing surgery or in an emergency situation, the medical professionals caring for you need to know you’re taking prednisone so they can adjust any treatment plans accordingly. (P.S. Make sure your healthcare providers know about any other medications or supplements you’re on, too!) 3. Don’t stop prednisone suddenly or without a doctor’s supervision. Stopping prednisone cold turkey can be dangerous for your health (read more about the importance of tapering below!). Even if you’re experiencing side effects, always consult a doctor before starting or stopping a medication. Patients who stop a course of prednisone suddenly can go into adrenal crisis, which life-threatening. You may also experience withdrawal, Donihi said, and experience difficult side effects as a result, like nausea, fever and muscle aches. Coping With: Weight Gain Weight fluctuations can be one of the most frustrating side effects of prednisone, both physically and emotionally. Prednisone causes the body to retain sodium and lose potassium, which can result in fluid retention, weight gain and bloating. It may also cause an increased appetite, causing you to eat more than you typically would. To help combat some of the fluid retention, Donihi suggested reducing your salt intake. “Avoid salty foods, avoid chips, avoid adding salt when [you] cook,” she said. Though it may seem counterintuitive, drinking more water can help decrease fluid retention as well. In case prednisone leaves you with the munchies, it can be helpful to stock up on foods with nutritional value, so you don’t find yourself reaching for unhealthy snacks in the middle of the night. It’s certainly easier said than done but watching your caloric intake and eating nutritious foods can help prevent prednisone weight gain, said Donihi. While there are some steps you can take to manage weight gain, it’s not always possible to fend it off completely – especially if you’re on a high dose of prednisone for a longer period of time. Mighty contributor Polly Stewart shared the following reminder for those struggling with how prednisone has affected their weight: To others dealing with the effects of steroids, just remember you can only control your body so much… Sometimes it doesn’t matter what your calorie intake is or if your body will allow you to exercise, the side effects will still win. Above all, know that you are not alone, and look at the big picture — these medications are most likely keeping you alive. Surely that is more important than anything else. Coping With: Bone Thinning and Osteoporosis When taken over long periods of time, prednisone can cause issues with your bone health, which, though rarely, can include osteonecrosis (bone death) that causes pain around your joints in particular or osteoporosis that leads to thinner and more brittle bones that fracture easily. It’s important for anyone taking long-term courses of prednisone to consider preventive measures that can help keep bones strong and healthy. Donihi had several recommendations. First, she advised people taking prednisone to avoid smoking and limit their alcohol intake. Several studies have found that cigarette smoking is a risk factor for bone fractures and osteoporosis, and heavy drinking has been associated with osteoporosis as well. Partaking in smoking or heavy drinking on top of prednisone would increase the risk of bone loss and fractures. Weight-bearing exercises (such as walking or yoga) can help prevent bone loss as well as muscle atrophy, both of which can be caused by prednisone over time. When your muscle tissues start to atrophy or break down, your muscles aren’t able to support your bones as well and help them stay strong too. Talk to your doctor about which types of exercise would be most suitable for you and your health. You should also ensure that you’re getting enough nutrients in your diet to promote proper bone health. “The American College of Rheumatology actually recommends that all patients who take prednisone should be getting a calcium intake between 1,000 and 1,200 mg per day and a vitamin D of 600 to 800 international units per day in their diet,” Donihi said. “And that will hopefully help prevent some of those fractures.” Though it may sound like common sense, Donihi stressed the importance of exercising caution in your everyday life to avoid falling or getting injured. For instance, if it’s winter, you probably shouldn’t walk on an icy sidewalk so you don’t fall and break your hip. “Because of that osteoporosis,” she said, “[you] really want to make sure [you’re] doing things to prevent the fractures from happening.” Finally, if you are taking a long-term course of prednisone, check in with your health care provider about how the medication could be affecting your bones. If you have a higher risk level for bone issues, your doctor may prescribe bisphosphonate medications right away for osteoporosis. Alternatively, you may need to get a bone mineral density test to assess for osteoporosis. If the test reveals that you are at risk for fractures, Donihi said, your doctor may prescribe a medication that can help prevent this. To read more about how prednisone can affect the bones, check out these stories from our Mighty contributors : How I Became Empowered After an Osteoporosis Diagnosis How Prednisone Has Affected My Teeth Coping With: Difficulty Sleeping Prednisone has been known to make people feel “wired” or “hyped up,” which can lead to insomnia and difficulty sleeping. Despite feeling exhausted from lack of sleep, it can still be a challenge to drift off at night. One strategy Donihi recommended is to talk to your doctor about the time of day you’re taking the prednisone. “If [you’re] taking it later in the day, talk to [your] health care provider and ask them if it’s OK to just take it once a day in the morning,” she said. “In many disease states that’s perfectly acceptable.” Donihi explained that some people may have less trouble sleeping at night if they only take prednisone once a day in the morning. Before changing your medication schedule, it’s imperative you talk to your doctor, as this approach might not be appropriate for everyone. For more recommendations on coping with insomnia, check out the following stories from our Mighty community : 12 Things I Do to Manage My Insomnia 27 Tips for the Nights When Your Chronic Illness Makes It Hard to Sleep How You Can Prevent Chronic Insomnia Coping With: Increased Risk of Infection One of the effects of prednisone is a decreased immune response. While this may sometimes be the goal in prescribing the medication, as with autoimmune disease patients or organ transplant recipients, it can also have the additional consequence of making someone more vulnerable to infection. It’s important for anyone taking prednisone to be extra careful to avoid germs and practice proper hygiene. Washing your hands is a must, and Donihi said to try and avoid other people who are sick. Donihi also recommended getting an influenza vaccine if you’re taking prednisone. In general, age-appropriate vaccines are recommended even when taking prednisone. However, double-check with your doctor. In some cases, if you’ve been taking more than 20mg of prednisone a day for longer than two weeks, your doctor may suggest you do not get vaccines that contain live virus. “Patients who are on prednisone are more prone to getting infections and the infections don’t clear as quickly,” she explained. “If we can prevent the infection from coming, that’s always important.” For those on high, long-term doses of prednisone, Sethi added that your doctor might prescribe certain antibiotics in addition to the prednisone as a preventative measure to help reduce the risk of infections. If you have a fever or believe you’ve contracted an infection, he advised that you should report your symptoms to your doctor right away so the issue can be treated early. For more tricks and tips that help our chronic illness community avoiding getting sick, check out the following stories : 18 ‘Hacks’ That Help People With Chronic Illness Avoid Catching the Flu 10 Fashionable Face Masks People With Chronic Illness Recommend 15 Flu Season Essentials People With Chronic Illness Swear By How to Safely Stop Prednisone If you’re currently taking prednisone and struggling with any of its side effects, know you are not alone. However, it’s critical to talk with your doctor before discontinuing the medication. Those who have been taking prednisone for a prolonged period of time may experience serious consequences if they stop taking the medication suddenly and all at once. Although the literature suggests two or more weeks is a prolonged period of time to be taking prednisone, Donihi explained that for some patients, stopping suddenly can be cause for concern after a 10-day course. She said there are a few reasons not to stop taking prednisone abruptly. First, taking prednisone long-term causes the adrenal glands to atrophy, or shrink, and become unable to generate adequate amounts of cortisol — the body’s “natural” corticosteroid. If someone were to stop prednisone suddenly, Donihi cautioned, they could experience an adrenal crisis. An adrenal crisis requires immediate medical attention and can be potentially life-threatening. It is critical for anyone taking prednisone to work with their health care provider to gradually decrease their dosage over time — also known as tapering — to let their adrenal glands recover. Another reason tapering is important is to prevent a rebound of symptoms. For those who may be taking prednisone due to an inflammatory condition such as arthritis or colitis, stopping the medication suddenly could cause symptoms to flare up again suddenly, Donihi explained. In addition, if you’ve been off steroids for even six months and require surgery, your body may not be able to adequately activate your stress response, which puts your health in danger. Benefits vs. Side Effects of Prednisone Though some of the side effects of prednisone can be difficult to cope with – physically or emotionally – that doesn’t necessarily mean it should be avoided. “These side effects should not scare people away from taking it, if indeed they need to take it for their chronic disease,” Donihi said. For many people, prednisone can help reduce symptoms and control disease flare-ups. As with any medication you take, it’s important to consult your doctor and weigh the benefits with the risks. If prednisone helps you, but you struggle with the side effects, Mighty contributor Donna Adams offered the following reminder: Sometimes you have to choose to take the bad with the good, in hopes the good makes it all worth it.Some of us don’t have a choice. Or at least it doesn’t feel like it when the choice is life or death. However, even without knowing it, when we thought we didn’t have a choice, we did — we made the choice to live, and to fight for the best life we could by trying to get as well as we can… and with that comes great struggle. But please, anyone struggling with the effects of prednisone, chronic illness, or any other medication: You made the right choice.And even when you can’t see it, or feel it, this is worth the struggle you are enduring right now.

Community Voices
Maple

Do people here get stomach migraines? I’ve had migraines with troubling auras on and off for the past 2 weeks & now i think I have stomach migraine.

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Community Voices
Paige Wyant

15 Tattoos Inspired by Migraine

On dark and stormy days with migraine, where do you turn to find a sliver of light? Some may find hope and encouragement in loved ones, books or movies, their faith – while others turn to art. For many people with chronic illness, tattoos not only serve as a reminder of their inner strength and reasons to keep fighting but as a reclamation of a body gone rogue, causing pain and symptoms you most definitely didn’t ask for. Migraine is a complex neurological disease with multiple subtypes, each causing a wide range of unique symptoms. Though head pain is common, the condition is not “just a headache,” as migraineurs may experience symptoms such as nausea, sensory sensitivity, cognitive issues, fatigue or aura. The effects of migraine can also extend beyond the physical, making an impact on a person’s mental health, social life and ability to attend work/school and complete everyday tasks. With all the challenges migraine can bring, some find having a permanent reminder to carry with them day to day an immensely helpful coping tool. We wanted to see how our Mighty community translated their experiences with migraine into body art, so we asked them to share photos of their tattoos and explain the significance. Check out what each of the beautiful designs below represents, and let us know how you would symbolize your migraine experience in the comments! Here’s what our community shared with us: 1. ‘I can still grow in mucky water.’ “I got this at the end of high school. It’s a lotus flower that has fortitude written inside of it. It signifies that I can still grow in mucky water and that it takes fortitude to continue with the day-to-day struggles and learn from them rather than let them break me down.” – Alex T. 2. ‘Now I always have a spoon left at the end of the day!’ “I got this tattoo just a few weeks ago after struggling with chronic migraines, vertigo, occipital neuralgia and degenerative disc of the cervical spine for the past three plus years. I have pain every day; I am never completely pain-free. The tat represents ‘spoon theory’ and being part of the ‘spoonie’ community. The positive symbolism is that now I always have a spoon left at the end of the day!” – Sarah S. 3. ‘When I was dealing with a particularly bad migraine… I came up with the idea of my awareness butterfly.’ “When I was dealing with a particularly bad migraine, I did what I always do when I get migraines, which is color and draw. I came up with the idea of my awareness butterfly. All of the colors in my butterfly represent an illness I have. The burgundy in the center represents chronic migraines.” – Alyssa J. 4. ‘Every day is a new day to try again.’ “I got this simple sun tattoo to help remind me of my internal strength through the highs and lows of life while dealing with chronic migraines and anxiety. It goes along with one of my favorite quotes: ‘The sun is a daily reminder that we too can rise again from the darkness. That we too can shine our own light.’ Every day is a new day to try again and embrace the beauty of this world, despite chronic illness.” – Alyssa I. 5. ‘My chronic migraines were my first diagnosis.’ “My chronic migraines were my first diagnosis, eventually leading up to a diagnosis of lupus which is obviously the cause of my migraines. I have this for lupus, fibromyalgia and chronic migraines.” – Sydney S.P. 6. ‘Hope is everything.’ “Hope. Hope for the future, hope for a cure, hope for pain-free days. Hope is everything.” – Macie R. 7. ‘This is my chronic pain tattoo.’ “This is my chronic pain tattoo for migraines, fibromyalgia, Sjogren’s, Hashimoto’s, chronic fatigue, microscopic colitis, etc.” – Bobbette D. 8. ‘It gets better.’ “It’s for suicide awareness and the heart for love. The pain from my migraine makes me want to end it sometimes but then I look down and remember that I have people that love me and still need me and that it gets better.” – Kay D. 9. ‘From the ashes I will rise.’ “My Phoenix! I got this on my shoulder this year – she is not done in traditional colors of a phoenix but instead she has many ‘awareness colors’ represented and I love the mythology and mantra of from the ashes I will rise. These conditions may affect me and knock me down, but I will rise. Purple is for migraine awareness as I have chronic migraine. Other colors include pink for breast cancer (my mother is a survivor) and teal for PCOS which I also have. Purple is also for Alzheimer’s awareness (my grandmother has this).” – Megan C. 10. ‘I am stronger than my chronic migraines.’ “I got the tattoo below with ‘Infinite Faith & Strength’ as a daily reminder that I am stronger than my chronic migraines and all of the struggles they bring with them. I was diagnosed with migraines over 20 years ago. My life has been anything but easy for sure. However, I’m thankful for each day that I’m able to get out of bed and live as ‘normal’ a life as possible.” – Maryann V. 11. ‘I am a force of nature.’ “When I was 15, I was poisoned by an antibiotic prescribed to me after a progressive, bacterial ear infection. In its wake, I was left with no vestibular system and was diagnosed with chronic migraine shortly after. I got this tattoo to remind myself I am a force of nature and that I have survived metaphorical disasters. Every time I look at it spiraling out of my PICC line scar, I tell myself how strong I am to keep going. It has been a monumental pillar in my healing and life with chronic pain.” – Kat H. 12. ‘Chronic migraine ribbon in a butterfly.’ “Chronic migraine ribbon in a butterfly.” – Sidney V. 13. ‘I’ve gotten through some of the worst migraines ever and I know I’ll be able to get through the next one.’ “I have ‘I can’t breathe’ and ‘I am greater than my highs and lows’ on my bicep. I have a laundry list of medical conditions. ‘I can’t breathe’ is based off of the song by Bea Miller but also since health conditions – especially migraines – can become so suffocating and debilitating. It can control your life. It can feel like you’re drowning and can’t be saved. ‘I am greater than my highs and lows’ reminds me to be strong because I’ve gotten through some of the worst migraines ever and I know I’ll be able to get through the next one.” – Angela C. 14. ‘Hope is essential to living with migraine.’ “Hope is essential to living with migraine. Surviving and living well with migraine disease takes hope, support, perseverance, and constantly learning.” – Teri R. 15. ‘Beauty and pain lie close together.’ “I have a tattoo on my neck that is inspired by my chronic migraine. It’s a rose and a dagger. For me they symbolize that beauty and pain lie close together and do not necessarily exclude each other. There is beauty in my husband holding my hand during an attack and there is pain in all the beautiful things that I’m no longer able to do. I have also met a lot of beautiful people on my way with my illness but there is also the pain of the people I have lost along the way. The placement is also important because my botox treatment is administered among other places in the neck too.” – Kerstin S. For support, advice and encouragement on facing the ups and downs of life with migraine, connect with our community – we’re here for you 24/7. To read more about migraine, check out the following stories from our Mighty community: 10 Common Symptoms of Migraine – as Told by Memes What Is Transient Aphasia, the Migraine Aura Symptom We Don’t Talk About Enough 14 Symptoms of Migraine – as Shown in Photos Inside a 24-Hour Migraine Attack 17 People Describe What Visual Auras From Migraine ‘Look’ Like

Community Voices

What part of your body bothers you most during a #Migraine attack?

<p>What part of your body bothers you most during a <a class="tm-topic-link mighty-topic" title="Migraine" href="/topic/migraine/" data-id="5b23ce9c00553f33fe997c0a" data-name="Migraine" aria-label="hashtag Migraine">#Migraine</a> attack?</p>
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Paige Wyant

Talking About Opioid Crisis With Compassion for People With Addictions

This is a topic that has weighed heavily on me for some time. As someone who lives with multiple health conditions, including chronic pain, and serves as The Mighty’s chronic illness editor, my goal is always to advocate for and elevate the voices of other pain patients like myself. That being said, I’ve been troubled by a trend I’ve noticed within our chronic community relating to discussions of the opioid crisis: the tendency to judge, stereotype and villainize the people who are or who have been addicted to opioids. There is no question that issues with opioid addiction in the U.S. have made it far more difficult for chronic pain patients to obtain their prescribed opioid medication. I’ve had the privilege to edit several stories from Mighty contributors who detail the fear, anger and hopelessness they feel at losing access to a medication that helps them live. For many, it’s had extreme consequences — affecting not only their pain levels, but their mental health, ability to function and basic quality of life. It hardly seems fair that so many individuals are suddenly being denied a key component of their pain management strategy because so many other individuals are struggling with addiction. After all, between less than 1 percent and 12 percent of people with chronic pain become addicted to their medication. All the emotions echoing throughout the pain community are valid. The effects of the opioid crisis are terrifying and upsetting, and it’s important for us to speak out and share our experiences. But elevating the voices in the chronic pain community does not mean we should be diminishing the voices in the addiction community. While of course, not everyone does this, it is a near-daily occurrence that I see some folks with chronic pain speaking poorly of folks struggling with addiction. Efforts to “prove” responsibility, compliance and lack of addiction all too often veer into territory of judging those who are addicted. In attempts to differentiate themselves, some pain patients use harmful stereotypes and hurtful language. “I take my medication responsibly! I’m not some ‘junkie’ selling drugs on a street corner.” Others point at people with addictions with blame, anger and malice. “This is all your fault!!!” This type of discourse is disheartening to see for many reasons — particularly the lack of compassion and empathy. Addiction is a complex disease, and people with addictions are all unique, complex human beings. Not everyone with an opioid addiction “looks” the same; addiction doesn’t discriminate by race, wealth, sexual identity, class or gender. It can (and does) happen to anyone. Perhaps someone accidentally became addicted to pain pills after a major surgery because they were in such agony. Maybe someone else turned to opioids as a way to cope with a stressful life event, because they didn’t know what else to do. Regardless of “how” a person got addicted, or what their experience with addiction looks like, they deserve understanding — not judgment. Of course, it’s never “OK” to take prescription medication in a different way than prescribed, or to use illegal street drugs. But addiction is a serious problem, and it’s an illness, just like chronic pain. As fellow humans, we should be extending compassion and support instead of tearing each other down — especially considering we know what it’s like to live with a type of health condition that is so often stereotyped and marginalized. It’s easy to feel angry at people with addictions when addictions and drug overdoses have, in large part, led to the opioid crisis. It’s harder to feel angry when you begin putting names and faces to the people with addictions: your family members, your friends, your neighbors, your classmates. If you’ve ever loved someone with an addiction, you know what an anxiety-inducing, gut-wrenching and helpless feeling it is to watch them struggle with this disease — knowing that despite the confusing and scary ways their behavior may have changed, they are still in there, somewhere. I have someone in my life, someone whom I love fiercely, who struggled with an opioid addiction for many years (though I am proud to say they are over one year sober). Despite their faults, despite what they’ve been through, this person radiates sunshine. They have stood by my side when no one else has, and never fail to make me smile. So it breaks my heart and absolutely guts me when I see the judgmental and derogatory language used to describe those with addictions. To see them put down as “lesser than,” as “worthless,” as “criminals.” To see people perpetuate damaging stereotypes and misconceptions. To see chronic pain depicted as a more valid illness than addiction. It is absolutely possible for us, as a chronic pain community, to talk about our experiences, our challenges and our emotions without judging another community or creating an environment where people with addictions don’t feel safe. I asked my loved one what it’s like living with an addiction, and they said: I feel like I am unjustly judged and discriminated against as a person because of a disease I have that takes everything out of me. And the stigmas around addiction create an environment where addicts like me don’t feel comfortable vocalizing our fears, experiences and needs in order to get help and help others. I still have struggles, but I don’t think anyone should be shamed for that. I don’t have the solution to the opioid crisis, addiction rates or the impact these issues are having on the chronic pain community. However, I do believe that our best bet at making productive steps forward (for both the chronic pain community and the addiction community) is not to be angry at one another, but to work together. Each community can still advocate for its own needs and suggest solutions without putting the other community down. We need to focus our efforts on misguided policymakers — not the people who are struggling right along with us. We could all use a little more compassion, support and understanding as we face difficult health issues. So, to the community I deeply respect and am humbled to be part of, I ask that we channel our energy in more constructive ways, so we can be helpful and supportive of everyone.

Community Voices

What's a gadget or device that can make life with an illness or disability easier? #TipLine

Share the products and tools you've tried that have been well worth the investment. What do you like about this device? How has it helped you?

#ChronicIllness #ChronicPain #Disability #RareDisease

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Paige Wyant

Disabled Pets You Should Follow on Instagram

It’s common knowledge (or, at least, it should be) that all people are fundamentally deserving of love, safety and security – regardless of their ability or health situation.The same goes for the furry, feathery and scaly creatures many of us hold close to our hearts.Though you might not hear about it as often, animals can have chronic illnesses, disabilities and health conditions just like humans. Some may be surprised to learn that there are dogs, cats, rabbits and other creatures with the same conditions humans have.Living with an illness or disability is by no means “easy” when you are a human. There are so many obstacles to navigate, including physical limitations, financial costs and lack of social awareness or acceptance. As people, we still have a long way to go in terms of making our society a welcoming and accessible place for people with illnesses and disabilities.But animals with health challenges face some pretty extreme challenges, too. They cannot communicate their symptoms or advocate for their needs. Many disabled animals are automatically euthanized because their care can be expensive and finding an adoptive family can be difficult. There are a number of organizations dedicated to rescuing and finding homes for disabled pets – but there will always be a need for more people to adopt them.Like in the human world, there is a stigma attached to disability in the pet world that equates having a health issue with being “broken” or “imperfect.” Pets with disabilities may not be in peak health, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have incredible amounts of love, joy and value to bring to this world. They deserve to live the most wonderful life imaginable in a loving and happy home. (P.S. The same goes for people, too.)We wanted to shine a light on some of the pets who are modeling how to live your best life with a disability and raising awareness of their health conditions, so we rounded up 17 animal influencers everyone should be following on Instagram.If supporting disabled pets is a cause that tugs on your heart, we encourage you to volunteer or donate to a local organization that helps pets with health issues. You could even consider adopting a disabled pet if you’re able to do so.Now, onto some very “Mighty” pets! 1. Ferris Wheeler (@turboferris) View this post on Instagram Pure joy. ????A post shared by ❤???????? Ferris Wheeler (@turboferris) on Oct 17, 2018 at 10:55pm PDT Ferris Wheeler is aptly named for the wheelchair that helps him zoom around and play like a pup. Ferris has spina bifida, a birth defect that occurs when the spine and spinal cord don’t form properly. His owner describes his energy as “infectious,” and says he’s always there to boost her spirits on tough days. 2. Lil Bub (@iamlilbub) View this post on Instagram Mighty BUB!A post shared by Lil BUB (@iamlilbub) on Jun 17, 2019 at 12:34pm PDT Bub was born with a rare bone condition called osteopetrosis, which causes bones to be extremely dense and prone to breakage. Though she was almost completely immobile by the age of 1, she slowly began to recover and is now able to run, jump and climb. This tiny but determined cat just celebrated her 8th birthday in June 2019. 3. Pistachio (@porkchopandpistachio) View this post on Instagram New bandana I ❤️ it ! From @ruff_life_rescue_wear #ruffliferescuewear #hemifacialmicrosomia #microtia #microtiababy #daschund #daschundsofinstagram #weinerdogs #weinerdogsofinstagram #umbrellaofhope #adoptdontshopA post shared by PorkchopandPistachio (@porkchopandpistachio) on Jul 6, 2019 at 8:21am PDT Pistachio is a Daschund with hemifacial microsomia, a congenital disorder that affects the development of the lower half of the face, and microtia, a congenital disorder in which the external ear is underdeveloped. Since being rescued, “Stash” is living his best life where every day is #TongueOutTuesday. 4. Tiddles (@tiddles_the_pteroduckdal) View this post on Instagram Tidds is off and running for the weekend that is about to start. Nothing can stop him! No not even a rare Australian attack bush! Tidds used to trip over those bushes.. now he can pivot and avoid them.. and then turn around and give them what for about growing in a place he wants to walk ???????? TGIF says Tidds! . . . #indianrunnerduck #runnerduck #indianrunner #tiddles #tiddlestheduck #specialneedspets #disabledduck #petducks #animallovers #takethat #dancingduck #derpyduck #ducksofinstagram #dailyduck #duckoftheday #quack #tgifriday #aussiebush #youcantgetme #standingtall #walkingtall #icandothis #inspiringanimals #mightyducks #nothingcanstopme #offandrunning #yayfridayA post shared by Tiddles the duck (@tiddles_the_pteroduckdal) on Jul 25, 2019 at 11:24pm PDT Tiddles the duck hatched in his mom’s incubator in 2016, and she noticed a few months later that his walk was a little off. It turned out that Tiddles has a spinal issue that affects his gait, but he still lives an awesome life exploring the Australian bush. 5. Scooty (@super_scooty) View this post on Instagram Running into the weekend like a fierce floofy fur ball #floofonfleek #floofday #furball #friyay #unstoppable #happy #handicapable #handicappeddog #specialneeds #speciallove #youaremysunshine #smile #fridayA post shared by Scooty (@super_scooty) on Jul 12, 2019 at 9:57am PDT Named the happiest dog on the planet by Solid Gold Pet, Scooty’s smile is truly infectious. Her owner rescued her after she was hit by a car and paralyzed as a puppy. Through physical therapy, some sweet wheels and plenty of affection, Scooty is living her best life. 6. Piglet (@pinkpigletpuppy) View this post on Instagram What’s your favorite color? Mine is blue. Finally, after countless leased cars over decades, last November I got my beautiful dark blue car. I chose my car by color. But what about my dogs? We have a rainbow of dog colors here. And I will admit that even though there aren’t many dogs I couldn’t fall in love with, I find certain breed mix types, coat types, and sizes to be more attractive (for me) than others. This has definitely influenced who ends up staying on here. That said, I’ve learned important lessons from personal experience and from observing the “acquisition” of hundreds and maybe thousands of dogs over the course of my veterinary career and work with rescues. Choosing a dog is a complex, emotional process. Sometimes dogs just find us, the match is made by the dog, and we move onto a happiness we never could have planned. Searching personalities, activity level, and other aspects that don’t show up on first glance are generally crucial to making the right match. Rescue groups and breeders have a responsibility to guide prospective adopters and buyers to give dogs the best opportunity for success in their new families. Fortunately most are skilled at evaluating dogs and adopters, and most have the best interest of their dogs in mind when approving adoptions and purchases. But then there are others who are not so diligent. And that’s where the public needs to be honest with themselves as to what type of pup will best fit into their lifestyle. All puppies and dogs are cute. But not all are good matches for everyone. Choosing a dog in the same fashion as I picked my car, by color, without looking deeper is not likely to end well. At the same time, eliminating dogs from consideration because they aren’t visually appealing regularly lands the most amazing dogs on euthanasia lists at shelters. My point here is to keep a clear and open mind when choosing your next dog or other pet. Control impulses based on looks and learn more about individuals who you are bringing into your family before making the final decision. Rely on others for educated and rational input when your emotions take over. The right match leads to dog bliss. . . . #pinkpigletpuppyA post shared by Piglet, deaf blind pink puppy (@pinkpigletpuppy) on Jul 19, 2019 at 5:05am PDT Believe it or not, Piglet is a dog – not an actual piglet! He is a deaf and blind puppy who was rescued from a hoarding situation and is the product of two dapple colored parents. (Dapple to dapple breeding is linked to congenital ear and eye defects.) Piglet’s mission is to encourage others to adopt disabled rescue dogs and bring a smile to others’ faces. 7. Ginny Rabbit (@ginnyrabbit) View this post on Instagram Ginny wants to know: IS IT FRIDAY YET?! Cause this bun has been working hard all week!! For real though, she’s got some exciting surprises for you this weekend so be on the lookout ????????!!A post shared by Ginny Rabbit ???? (@ginnyrabbit) on Apr 18, 2019 at 6:15pm PDT This sweet, sassy lady is Ginny – a 10-year-old rabbit who developed head tilt (also known as torticollis) in 2013. There are many possible causes of head tilt in rabbits, but in Ginny’s case, it happened as the result of a parasite called E. cuniculi. Her owners believe she was probably born with the parasite in her bloodstream, though they didn’t know it when they rescued her. Ginny doesn’t experience any pain due to her condition, and now leads a life full of love and massages. 8. Smush (@smushofficial) View this post on Instagram Beauty fades. Character remains. ????????A post shared by Smush ???????? (@smushofficial) on Jul 24, 2019 at 5:24am PDT After being rescued by a vet student in 2017, Smush required constant care due to an upper respiratory infection, ringworm and an inability to eat on her own. Thanks to some love and care, she slowly grew stronger and was able to recuperate! Smush lives with a cleft lip and some genetic abnormalities and encourages her followers to embrace their authentic selves. 9. Beaux Tox (@beauxtoxrescues) View this post on Instagram ~Wednesday Wisdom~ If you rub my forehead aka "Love Bump" and give me kisses – you will have a great Hump Day!???????? That's some good free wisdom right there! Toss in some belly rubs and Friday will come sooner!???? #humpday #yellowlabsquad #talesofalab #doggo #wednesdaywisdom #wednesdaymotivation #livelovelaugh #happy #dog #pet #doggy #livingmybestlife #love #rescuepetsofinstagram #rescuedogsofinsta #thedodo #adorable #cute #cuteness #buzzfeeddogs #dogsofinstagram #handsome #dogs_of_insta #ilovehim #woof #labsofinstagram #topdogphoto #todayfanphoto #labradoroftheday #yellowlabradorA post shared by Beaux Tox (@beauxtoxrescues) on Jul 10, 2019 at 7:30am PDT For adorable Beaux, every day is the best day ever! Beaux has a congenital skull deformity, and, as a result, was neglected for the first few years of his life. Fortunately, Beaux found a forever home where he is often dressed to look his best. He is deaf in his left ear and has vision issues on his right side, but is otherwise a happy and healthy dog nowadays. 10. Toby (@tummyandgummy) View this post on Instagram For #whiskerswednesday I thought I'd show you guys my eyebrow whiskers ???? I know I look like I am sad but it's just my face. I am actually in my happy place (radiator bed) ☺ . . . #happykitty #sleepykitty #ehlersdanloscat #specialneedscat #edscat #ehlersdanlossyndrome #specialcat #purrfect #kittywhiskers #kittylove #tabbycat #myspecialcat #meowmeow #mygreatcat #rescuecat #adoptdontshop #ehlersdanlos #felinecutaneousasthenia #catsoftheday #meow_beauties #pawproject #indoorcat #tabby #whiskers #specialneedspets #catswithdisabilities #adoptedcatA post shared by Toby & Quinton (@tummyandgummy) on May 8, 2019 at 4:12am PDT Toby recently made headlines as an unexpected (yet adorable) advocate for Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS), a connective tissue disease that affects the amount and structure of collagen in your body. Toby has EDS, known as feline cutaneous asthenia (FCA) in the cat world. Toby and his best friend Quinton, another special needs cat who lost all his teeth, have now settled in with their human companions in their furever home. 10. Freddie Mercury (@ready_freddie_) View this post on Instagram The time has come… for Freddie merch! @deservingdogs and @mumbalee are meeting today to brainstorm what to make. What kind of stuff would you guys want to see my cute little face on?A post shared by Freddie Mercury ???? (@ready_freddie_) on Jun 4, 2019 at 12:10pm PDT Freddie experienced some trauma as a puppy when she broke her two front legs but did not receive proper medical care, and was left outside in the cold. She was also born with a severe underbite that causes some issues for her. Despite these challenges, Freddie now lives with a loving owner who said, “She brightens my world and sends a ripple effect of positivity to so many others.” 11. Turbo and Tilly (@turbotwolegs) View this post on Instagram mom got a new reading chair yesterday!! we love it so much and we’ve already claimed it as our own, and we can’t even read!????❤️A post shared by Turbo and Tilly!???????????? (@turbotwolegs) on Jul 15, 2018 at 4:52pm PDT Meet not one, but two amazing kitties who both have rear leg paralysis. Turbo, 4, and Tilly, 2, live with their mom in Austin, Texas, where the siblings love to play with each other and snuggle. Their mom shared on Instagram, “i am thankful for these two beautiful, silly, angelic babies who make my heart full every day.” 12. Drogo (@drogothewarriordragon) View this post on Instagram I put a #heatlamp and uvb above Drogo while he looks out the window. He's in #heaven! Look how light he is, that's his super #happy #color plus he's been much more #feisty! . . . #Dragon #Drogo #drogon #drogothewarriordragon #beardeddragonsofig #beardeddragons #rescue #brokenback #fighter #strong #survivor #lizard #lizardofinstagram #beardiesofinstagramA post shared by DrogoTheWarriorDragon (@drogothewarriordragon) on Jan 20, 2018 at 9:40am PST Drogo’s mom adopted him after feeling an “instant connection” with the bearded dragon. Both are disabled, as Drogo is paralyzed and has severe metabolic bone disease (MBD). In addition to his human, Drogo lives with three other bearded dragons and a few dogs who keep him company. 13. Flummadiddle Pudding (@flummadiddle2legs) View this post on Instagram This is my favorite glamour shot. Thanks again @marloweandshakes for being so patient and getting my good side.A post shared by Flummadiddle (@flummadiddle2legs) on Jul 25, 2019 at 5:44pm PDT Flummadiddle is a Shih Tzu who was born without front legs. She loves to race around on her wheelchair! Flummadiddle is currently in foster care and looking for a forever home, preferably with an owner who has a limb difference just like her! 14. Mili (@mili_the_mini_cat) View this post on Instagram . Mili on a heat pad….she loves it so much.❤❤❤ . #mili_the_mini_cat #meowasfluff #catsofinstagram #meowdelfeature #petsatwork #disabledpets #disabledcats #thedodo #specialneedscat #catswithdwarfismA post shared by @ mili_the_mini_cat on Apr 5, 2019 at 7:23pm PDT A “little kitty in a big world,” Mili the cat was born with dwarfism, megacolon (an abnormal dilation of the colon), bones that aren’t fully formed, and blindness. Although vets originally didn’t think she would make it because of all her health conditions, Mili continues to thrive at home with her adoptive family and spreads joy to everyone she meets. 15. Squish (@apupnamedsquish) View this post on Instagram Ear floops in full effect ???? . . . #adoptdontshop #rescuedog #rescuedogsofinstagram #rescueismyfavoritebreed #dogsofinstagram #perfectlyimperfect #differentisbeautiful #pupstagramA post shared by Squish (@apupnamedsquish) on Feb 6, 2019 at 12:51pm PST Named for his sweet squishy face, Squish was adopted by a veterinarian just before he was scheduled to be put down. Squish endured blunt trauma to his head, resulting in severe swelling, deformities, scar tissue that prevented him from opening his jaw, and an eye that had sunken beneath crushed bone. After multiple surgeries (and lots of love and care), Squish is now doing much better and living a very happy life with the vet who rescued him. 16. Raven (@goatinthecity) View this post on Instagram Fresh maple leaves #goatsofinstagram #determinedgoat #goatlove #goat???? #goatkid #goatmom #goatinthecity #indoorgoatA post shared by Raven & Friends (@goatinthecity) on Jul 17, 2017 at 3:29pm PDT Raven, a Nubian goat, was born with a congenital defect that caused the upper parts of her hind legs to not grow in properly. Though she may never have use of her back two legs, according to her owner, Raven is still able to get around – sometimes using a wheelchair to help her zoom along. 17. Murray (@murraythedisableddog) View this post on Instagram Bath time ???? ????A post shared by Murray (@murraythedisableddog) on Jun 26, 2019 at 3:59pm PDT Murray was rescued as a puppy from Puerto Rico’s “Dead Dog Beach,” where he and his siblings were abandoned. At around 4 months old, he began showing signs of distemper – a serious, contagious virus that affects the nervous system. Murray experienced seizures and brain swelling and ended up losing all his teeth. Fortunately, he slowly began to recover. His foster family adopted him and he is now a beloved part of their family. Do you support any organizations that help pets with health conditions and disabilities? Share your favorite way to make an impact in the comments below. To read more about some very Mighty pets, check out the stories from our community below: When Your Dog Is Chronically Ill, Too These Mighty Pets Show How Healing the Human-Animal Bond Can Be How a Rescue Dog Reminded Me I’m Worthy of a Future, Even With Chronic Illness 5 Ways Animals Play an Important Role in Mental Health

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