Can Methotrexate be Used for Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) affects many people around the world and it is a common issue for many patients, young and old. RA is also referred to as an autoimmune disease. An autoimmune disease arises from an inappropriate immune response of the body against substances and tissues normally present in the body. Unlike the wear-and-tear damage of osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis affects the lining of your joints. This results in a chronic, systemic inflammatory disorder that may affect many tissues and organs, but specifically, attacks flexible joints causing a painful swelling.

Rheumatoid Arthritis can be a disabling condition, which leads to loss of functioning and mobility that can eventually result in bone erosion and joint deformity if not properly treated. Symptoms can also vary between individuals, and flare-ups may also occur; flare-ups are instances of the disease being active at times, whereas inactive periods are referred to as remission.

What is Methotrexate?

Methotrexate is known as an “immunosuppressive” drug by interfering with an enzyme important to DNA replication that has the effect of inhibiting cell reproduction. This action will reduce inflammation. Methotrexate is also referred to as a “disease modifying anti-rheumatic drug” or DMARD because it can modify the course of an incurable disease. DMARDs can inhibit disease progression andcan prevent damage from accumulating in the joints if used early enough. This may mean remission for some patients and at least a great improvement of symptoms for most others. This drug is usually used in the early stages of RA.

Methotrexate was not originally formulate for the treatment of RA but for treating various cancers, like lymphoma. After that, it was used experimentally for rheumatic-type diseases but now it is also used to treat other autoimmune diseases like Multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, and lupus. Methotrexate works well in combination with other DMARDs, including a newer class of them called Biologics. Methotrexate is generally administered to patients with rheumatoid arthritis as a single weekly dose given either intramuscularly or orally.

Methotrexate is one of the safest DMARDs and patients taking it live longer than those who take other types of immune-suppressing drugs and serious side effects are rare. Possible side effects include digestive upset, fatigue, and thinning hair. By supplementing on folic acid the risk for side effects caused by methotrexate can be reduced.

Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Popular symptoms of RA can include fatigue, morning stiffness, joint stiffness and joint pain. Patients can also experience minor joint swelling as inflammation is typical early on. Joint can sometimes appear bigger than normal and they might seem swollen. Flare-ups can last anywhere from a day or two, to a few weeks, depending on the severity in each patient.

Some patients will experience a fever, accommodated with pain and inflammation. However, if you have a fever that is higher than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, it is likely the result of something else and should be confirmed with your physician. Numbness and tingling is also not uncommon, as the inflammation creates pressure on the nerves in your body. This gives the burning or tingling feeling.

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