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Biologic drugs used to treat psoriasis can be safely and conveniently self-injected at home, but some people are afraid to try this method. Many MyPsoriasisTeam members have shared their self-injection experiences, as well as their fears.
“I hate needles,” said one MyPsoriasisTeam member, voicing a fear of needles that many people share. Another member added: “I started Humira today. I was a little nervous about self-injections, but I did it. Now I'm praying I finally found something that works. I'm ready to be myself again,” she said.
When appropriate, self-injection is a popular alternative to clinically administered injections. If you’re afraid of giving yourself an injection, think about how it can cut down on doctor visits and offer more self-sufficiency with your treatment. Once people get over the fear, many prefer the flexibility and comfort of self-injection.
Knowing what to expect can help you overcome your fears. Here’s what to know so you can face your self-injections with confidence.
Biologic drugs can be very effective in treating psoriatic disease (both psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis) and other autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. Biologics are often effective because they target specific agents in the immune system that can overreact and cause inflammation.
Your doctor may recommend a biologic drug, such as Cimzia (certolizumab pegol), Enbrel (etanercept), or Humira (adalimumab), as a treatment option for at-home use. There are many injectable biologics used to treat psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.
There are three main types of self-injection for administering biologic drugs at home. They each have their advantages and disadvantages, depending on your preference. Talk to your doctor about the option you feel most comfortable using to make self-injection less scary.
A prefilled syringe is a syringe and needle that has been filled with the appropriate dose of a medication. The dose is administered manually, and the user can control the speed of the injection. However, self-injection with a prefilled syringe can be difficult for people with psoriasis who have limited function with their hands.
A self-injection pen, also called an auto-injector, is prefilled with medication. It has a hidden spring-loaded needle, which is released by pressing a button when the device is pressed against the skin. Self-injection pens are easier to use for some people, but they may cause more swelling, bruising, or pain than a slower injection with a standard syringe.
E-devices are reusable auto-injectors that have enhanced technology. E-devices can provide control over the speed of injection, save an injection log, and have skin sensors that stop injection if contact with the skin is incorrect. However, some people might find e-devices too complicated.
Before your first dose, talk to your doctor about self-injection. You can arrange for your first self-injection to take place at your doctor’s office to be supervised by a health care provider. You can ask them questions and be sure you are administering the injection safely. Your health care provider can also teach you how to store syringes or self-injectors properly, which need to be refrigerated.
Research shows that both trained and untrained people with psoriasis can effectively administer self-injection. Nonetheless, one study indicated that people who were trying self-injection performed better with training and education materials, and were more satisfied with self-injection.
Training with a health care professional will put you at ease and give you confidence that you are doing the procedure correctly. As one MyPsoriasisTeam member said after learning how to self-inject, “I am now so much more confident that I will be able to manage the weekly injections myself.”
One member described her experience with learning to administer self-injections of methotrexate, a nonbiologic drug that is also sometimes injected. “I had my first injection yesterday,” she said. “After stressing and worrying about how painful the injections would be, I was pleasantly surprised that after the nurse in the clinic explained how to administer it, I literally felt nothing!”
Always follow your doctor’s instructions for self-injections. The following tips can make the process easier.
Start by preparing a clean, uncluttered area to do your self-injection. Wash your hands and have an alcohol wipe handy for the injection site. Some people are comforted by having a family member or friend with them.
The cold, refrigerated medication may be uncomfortable when injected. It is sometimes safe to take the filled injector out of the refrigerator for an hour or two before using it, so that the medication comes to room temperature. Some people warm the syringe or auto-injector in their hands before using it. Check with your doctor first about protocols for your specific medication.
Self-injections are typically administered to the arms, abdomen, or thighs. For many people, self-injection in the thigh is the easiest area to reach and the least painful. Consider rotating through different injection sites to avoid a single site getting sore over time or building up scar tissue.
An ice pack can also be used to numb the injection site before performing the injection, and ice can be used after the injection to reduce any pain or swelling. Pinching the skin around the injection site before and during the injection is also recommended.
Whether or not an injection is administered by a clinician or self-injected, you may experience side effects at the site of the injection. Pain, redness, itching, or swelling are side effects that commonly occur and sometimes stop after a few injections. Discuss these injection site reactions with your health care provider.
MyPsoriasisTeam members sometimes talk about the side effects of self-injection. One member said, “The injections hurt but are well worth the pain.” Another member wrote, “I give myself an injection every six weeks. It works great. There are no side effects for me, and my skin is clear.”
In addition to side effects at the injection site, be prepared for other side effects the medication may cause, such as nausea, flushing, or headaches. Talk to your health care team about potential side effects when you self-inject a biologic drug. Contact your doctor immediately if you experience an allergic reaction to a self-injection, with symptoms such as shortness of breath, itchy eyes, a full-body rash, fever or chills.
Learn more about starting a biologic treatment.
MyPsoriasisTeam is the social network for people with psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis and their loved ones. On MyPsoriasisTeam, more than 91,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with those who understand life with psoriasis.
Are you nervous about self-injection, or do you have questions about it? Share your thoughts in the comments below, or start a conversation with others on MyPsoriasisTeam.