MS and Gilenya – Some Possible Side Effects

I can’t remember when I first started taking Gilenya, exactly, but I believe it’s been just over a year. Sometime in summer 2014, I think. Considering I had to spend a day in a clinic having my heart rate and such regularly monitored after I took the first dose, you’d think I’d have a more clear recollection, but I was also going through some personal stuff at the time, and most of the past year and a half, or so, is pretty much a blur.

To be clear, though, I absolutely prefer the daily oral dose of Gilenya compared to the weekly injectible dose of Avonex I was on before. I’d lose a day a week to extreme flu-like symptoms that kept me home in bed, and feel like hell for another day or two after once I was functional again.

I’d also meant to keep a closer eye on any changes that cropped up in the beginning, and in the time since, as my body became more accustomed to the new medication, but I didn’t really do that. As well, it’s often difficult to tell if any of the changes I have been noticing are a result of my age (I turned 43 in Sept 2015), MS itself, or my body’s reaction to the medication. As such, I’ve often spent time online checking out what other people are saying in forums and the like, to see if I can find any similar experiences. This is my first attempt to compile some of my observations together.

Bruising

I remember pretty early on after I started taking Gilenya that I went online to see if anyone else was experiencing increased bruising in their day to day lives. I’ve mentioned I’m not the most graceful person around, but for awhile I seemed to be getting bruises without any recollection as to what I’d done to earn them. Like, more than usual.

That observation fell off my radar for several months, but popped back up again recently when I ended up with a fairly huge bruise on my upper arm – that’s still visible now, at least 4 weeks later. Maybe more, since I can’t quite remember when I got it. I seem to take longer to heal overall, really, be it a bruise, or cut, or cold virus, etc. I don’t get sick as often as I thought I would, thankfully, but when I do, it’s hella hard to bounce back from. Takes weeks.

After my Guinness World Record attempt, wherein I’d been awake for over 55 hours straight, I experienced numbness over pretty much all of one side of my body. That also contributed to physical injuries, because my sense of balance was off, my sleep pattern was disrupted, and it was easier to walk into things without noticing because the impact wasn’t registering in my brain. That’s pretty much cleared up now, at least.

Fatigue

I’m pretty sure it’s more the MS than the Gilenya, but regardless, the level of chronic fatigue I’ve been experiencing for the past few years or more is…ridiculous. MS is such a dumb disease, and if I could vote it out of existence, I would. It won’t kill you, necessarily, but it’ll make every single aspect of your life more difficult, uncomfortable, and in some cases, impossible. My body is tired all the time, but my mind struggles to keep up to day-to-day activities. I can’t remember things, so I put notes in my phone to remind me that I need to do dishes when I get home, or whatever. At work I write everything down because I can’t remember what I’d just been working on once I get interrupted for even a moment. It’s frustrating. And all of the effort it takes to focus on doing any mental tasks causes me to be extra weary by the end of the day. I feel like everything inside me has slown down, while the world keeps going at the same pace it always did. Again, that’s probably more an effect of MS, rather than Gilenya, but let’s just say I definitely don’t feel any more alert than I did before I started taking it!

Muscle Control Problems

Everything from weakness, to tingling, to nerves jumping, to dropping things, to controlling when I need to use the washroom versus when I just want to – even simple things like zipping up my jacket takes a lot more concentration than it used to. And that’s probably more MS-related, as well, but definitely worth mentioning. I feel like all of my muscles are just slightly out of control now. Not to the point where it’s noticable from the outside, but inside, I feel like I have to focus to keep from falling, or dropping what I’m carrying, or taking a billion attempts to screw the top back onto my Coke bottle.  I even have to schedule my loo breaks.  Activities that could previously rely on simple muscle memory – like zipping up a jacket or washing a plate in the sink – are more difficult, and things requiring more advanced motor skills – like threading a needle – are next to impossible. So much so that when I do accomplish something that used to be simple, I almost feel it’s worth a Facebook status update, or something. Maybe a nice shiny plaque. “In honour of Sue, for getting her key in the lock on the first try.”

Menstrual Cycle Chaos

Not something I love to talk about, either, but that might be why there is less information out there on such a new medication as Gilenya. Or maybe it’s just because I’m getting older. But the timing seems pretty coincidental if that’s the case, and when I posted a question to other ladies in a related online forum, the concensus seemed to be that I wasn’t the only one who experienced a sudden change. What was once pretty freaking regular has become so impossible to anticipate that I spend a good 2-2 and a half weeks each month trying to be prepared for anything. And that’s just not for the start. It also is difficult to tell when it’s actually done, versus just taking a nap. Haha

Ridiculous.

I’d like to say things have kind of evened out lately, but I’m not prepared to commit to such a statement just yet. It seems maybe a bit better – for quite awhile in the beginning of my Gilenya experience, it could be anywhere from a week early to ten days late. And then go on for however long it felt like it, apparently. Now, for the past few months, at least, it seems like there is less of a huge gap between the early and late ends of the spectrum, but that could be any number of factors affecting it all, really.

Tough to tell. Just another annoying aspect of life that I have to live with.

I know I’m forgetting things (why didn’t I write them down first?) but that’s a fairly good start, anyway. I’ll write another post if I think of more another time. The switch to Gilenya has definitely made my life much easier overall. Well, maybe not financially, but the drug company has actually been really good about working with me to make sure I don’t miss too many doses in a row, so that’s good. And none of these things are actually complaints – more just observations, because I know new side effects will be discovered over time as more and more people start using this particular medication to treat their disease.

It’s definitely the condition that’s complaint-worthy, not the medication for it!

But THAT’S for another post.

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