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The Potential Side Effects of Methotrexate

Methotrexate is commonly prescribed to people living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or severe psoriasis. The drug was originally approved more than 60 years ago for the treatment of cancer. It has proven to be an effective treatment for the symptoms of RA, but there is a fairly significant downside to this medication.

(If you have been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, you might qualify for our RA clinical trial in Birmingham, AL)

Methotrexate has been known to cause severe side effects for several of the major organs. Patients are strongly advised to contact their primary doctor and rheumatologist if they experience any adverse effects while taking methotrexate. Unfortunately, many patients do not understand the risks, so this page will examine the potential side effects of this drug in further detail.

The detailed side effects below have been reported in patients taking methotrexate in the following forms:

  • Powder for solution
  • Solution
  • Injectable
  • Tablet

Please note that due to the way this drug interacts with the body, there is a possibility that certain side effects may not manifest until several months or even years after the treatment was administered. Some reported effects have been quite serious, including cancers such as leukemia. Patients should not hesitate to discuss these risks and their concerns with their doctor.

Reported Side Effects of Methotrexate

Not every patient that is prescribed this form of RA treatment has experienced side effects. However, it’s not uncommon for these adverse reactions to require immediate medical attention. Do not hesitate to voice any concerns with your primary physician.

Common side effects of methotrexate include:

  • Joint pain
  • Blood in stool or urine
  • Vomiting up blood
  • Diarrhea
  • Reddening of the skin
  • Swelling of the lower extremities
  • Black, tar-colored stool

Less common side effects reported while taking methotrexate include:

  • Confusion
  • Blurred vision
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Unusual bruising or bleeding
  • Pinprick-sized red spots on the skin

If you or a loved one experience any of the following adverse effects, then you should seek medical attention.

  • Back pain
  • Dark urine
  • Sores on the lips or in mouth
  • Drowsiness or dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Fever or chills
  • Yellowing of the eyes or skin (jaundice)
  • Fits of coughing accompanied by fever or chills
  • Issues urinating accompanied by fever or chills
  • Pain in the lower back or sides accompanied by fever or chills

Less Serious Adverse Effects

Methotrexate may produce certain side effects which won’t require medical attention. In fact, several of these may subside once your body has had time to adjust to the medication. Ask your doctor about some steps that you could take to reduce the risk of these side effects.

Commonly reported issues include:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Loss of appetite

Less common problems include:

  • Pale skin
  • Itching or skin rash
  • Acne
  • Boils

(Be sure to check with your doctor if any of these side effects continue to persist.)

Some patients report that they begin to lose some of their hair while taking methotrexate. Fortunately, it seems that normal hair growth does resume once the treatment has been discontinued.

There are several side effects that can manifest after the patient has stopped taking this rheumatoid arthritis medication. These could require medical attention so please contact your doctor if you notice any of the following:

  • Confusion
  • Back pain
  • Blurry vision
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Fever
  • Increased weakness or fatigue

You should note that there are several types of drugs that could have a dangerous reaction when combined with methotrexate. You’ll need to give your doctor detailed information on any and all forms of medication (prescription and over-the-counter) that you are taking prior to beginning on methotrexate.