Please help , What effect is sulfasalazine supposed to have? Joints seem to be getting worse


Hi everyone,

I was recently diagnosed with RA and am currently on two sulfasalazine tablets a day, I have my first appointment with a rheumatology nurse on Tuesday.

They mentioned the full does of the tablet will be 6 a day so I am building up to that but what effect does sulfasalazine have on you? I still wake up with painful hands, feet, knees and now my neck hurts as well although that usually passes after the first couple of hours of the day. Is sulfasalazine supposed to take away the pain or has it got a different purpose and should I be on painkillers as well?

I know I’m not on the full dose yet but I had hoped that by starting these meds I would stop having my RA symptoms and be pain free, currently I’ve only been taking them for 4 weeks so when I’ve been taking them longer will I stop having pain? At the moment my fingers are just as sore and swollen as when I wasn’t taking the meds.

Any advice or personal experience is appreciated.




  • stickywicket
    stickywicket Member Posts: 27,713

    Sulfasalazine is a DMARD (Disease Modifying Ant-Rheumatic Drug). I guess there's a clue there ie these drugs modify the disease: they don't eliminate it. Furthermore, they all take up to three months to work properly. Not every drug will work for every patient. Usually we're started on a fairly low dose to ensure we're tolerating it well and then it is upped. I expect this will happen on Tuesday for you.

    But there are no guarantees. The drugs are to hold back the disease and try to prevent its worst excesses. Some lucky people find they also eliminate pain but, for most of us, pain is always around to a greater or lesser extent. Whether or not the drug is working is determined by our blood tests rather than pain levels. If necessary you can take pain relief but, if buying over the counter, do ensure that the pharmacist is aware of all other meds you take to guard against nteractions.

    You are at a very early stage so the sulfasalazine won't, yet be doing a great deal. The bad side is that things are still bad. The good side is that there is plenty of scope for them to improve. I hope they do.

    If at first you don't succeed, then skydiving definitely isn't for you.
    Steven Wright
  • Brynmor
    Brynmor Member Posts: 1,755

    Hi @hannah07

    I've taken a quick look around and found this page on our website:

    Do take a look through the information which is pretty comprehensive but doesn't include people's personal experience of taking sulfasalazine. However, here's a recent conversation on the subject: