Tags: Arthritis | rheumatoid arthritis | methotrexate | side effects

Rheumatoid Arthritis: Methotrexate Side Effects

By    |   Monday, 02 May 2016 04:50 PM

Methotrexate, commonly prescribed for rheumatoid arthritis, can decrease pain and swelling associated with the autoimmune disease, as well as slow down its advancement. Rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, is an autoimmune disease that causes a person’s immune system to attack the body’s tissues, which results in damaging chronic inflammation.

According to the American College of Rheumatology, 1.3 million Americans suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, and 75 percent are women.

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RA can affect other parts of the body in addition to the joints including the eyes, lungs, and various organs, even the skin. This disabling disease is lifelong and currently does not have a cure, however, treatments targeting inflammation are available.

One of the most common medications used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis is Methotrexate. According to the National Institutes of Health’s website MedlinePlus, possible side effects of Methotrexate include liver and lung damage, birth defects, a decrease in bone marrow blood cells, GI damage, an increased risk of lymphoma, serious or life-threatening skin reactions, and/or decreased immune system activity.

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A review of 21 studies in 2009 revealed 73 percent of patients reported experiencing at least one side effect from Methotrexate, says The Arthritis Foundation. Rheumatologists who regularly prescribe this medication recommend taking folic acid to decrease side effects, splitting the dose to decrease GI discomfort, and avoiding alcohol to protect the liver.

The Arthritis Foundation explains that when Methotrexate is taken in lower doses for rheumatoid arthritis, it is relatively safe.

The American College of rheumatology recommends taking a folic acid supplement as Methotrexate can deplete the body’s folate supply, having routine blood tests every eight to 12 weeks to check for side effects, and avoiding caffeine, which can decrease the effectiveness of Methotrexate. They caution that women should not become pregnant or breastfeed while taking this medication.

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Methotrexate, commonly prescribed for rheumatoid arthritis, can decrease pain and swelling associated with the autoimmune disease, as well as slow down its advancement. Rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, is an autoimmune disease that causes a person’s immune system to attack the body's tissues.
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