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- What is methotrexate, and how does it work (mechanism of action)?
- What brand names are available for methotrexate?
- Is methotrexate available as a generic drug?
- Do I need a prescription for methotrexate?
- What are the side effects of methotrexate?
- What is the dosage for methotrexate?
- Is methotrexate safe to take if I'm pregnant or breastfeeding?
- What else should I know about methotrexate?
What is methotrexate, and how does it work (mechanism of action)?
Methotrexate is classified as an antimetabolite drug which means it is capable of blocking the metabolism of cells. (Metabolism consists of the production and destruction of important components of the cell as well as the production of energy for use by the cell.) As a result of this effect, it has been found helpful in treating certain diseases associated with abnormally rapid cell growth, such as cancer of the breast and psoriasis. Recently, methotrexate has been shown to be effective in inducing miscarriage, for example in patients with ectopic pregnancy. This effect of methotrexate is attributed to its action of killing rapidly growing cells such as those of the placenta. It also has been found very helpful in treating rheumatoid arthritis, although its mechanism of action in this illness is not known. It seems to work, in part, by altering immunity which may play a role in causing rheumatoid arthritis. The FDA approved methotrexate in December 1953.
What are the side effects of methotrexate?
Methotrexate can cause severe toxicity which usually is related to the dose taken. The most frequent reactions include:
- mouth sores,
- stomach upset;
- low white blood counts;
- severe toxicity of the liver, kidneys and bone marrow, which require regular monitoring with blood tests;
What is the dosage for methotrexate?
Methotrexate may be taken with or without food. For rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis, the dose of methotrexate is given weekly, by injection or orally. The oral dose is 7.5 to 20 mg once weekly. For psoriasis, the starting oral dose is a single 7.5 mg dose weekly or 2.5 mg every 12 hours for three doses, once weekly. The final dose ranges between 10 and 25 mg weekly orally or by injection.
Is methotrexate safe to take if I'm pregnant or breastfeeding?
Methotrexate should not be used in pregnancy, as it can be toxic to the embryo and can cause fetal defects and spontaneous abortion (miscarriage). It should be discontinued prior to conception if used in either partner. Male patients should stop taking methotrexate at least 3 months prior to a planned conception in order to avoid the theoretical risk of methotrexate-induced abnormal sperm. Women should discontinue use for at least one ovulatory cycle before conception to reduce exposure of a developing ovarian follicle to methotrexate.
Methotrexate is excreted in breast milk and should not be used by nursing mothers.
What else should I know about methotrexate?
What preparations of methotrexate are available?
Injectable: 25 mg/ml. Powder for injection: 1 g. Tablet: 2.5, 5, 7.5, 10 and 15 mg
How should I keep methotrexate stored?
Methotrexate should be stored at room temperature 15 C to 30 C (59 F to 86 F), avoiding light.
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Methotrexate (Rheumatrex, Trexall) is a drug prescribed to treat cancer, psoriasis, inflammatory diseases of the skin, arthritis (rheumatoid arthritis in adults and children), psoriatic arthritis, polymyositis, lupus, and to induce miscarriage in women with ectopic pregnancies. Side effects drug interactions, dosage, and pregnancy safety information should be reviewed prior to taking this drug.
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Related Disease Conditions
Liver disease can be cause by a variety of things including infection (hepatitis), diseases, for example, gallstones, high cholesterol or triglycerides, blood flow obstruction to the liver, and toxins (medications and chemicals). Symptoms of liver disease depends upon the cause and may include nausea, vomiting, upper right abdominal pain, and jaundice. Treatment depends upon the cause of the liver disease.
Psoriasis is a long-term skin condition that may cause large plaques of red, raised skin, flakes of dry skin, and skin scales. There are several types of psoriasis, including psoriasis vulgaris, guttate psoriasis, inverse psoriasis, and pustular psoriasis. Symptoms vary depending on the type of psoriasis the patient has. Treatment of psoriasis may include creams, lotions, oral medications, injections and infusions of biologics, and light therapy. There is no cure for psoriasis.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation of the joints, the tissue around the joints, as well as other organs in the body. Because it can affect multiple other organs of the body, rheumatoid arthritis is referred to as a systemic illness and is sometimes called rheumatoid disease. The 16 characteristic early RA signs and symptoms include the following. Anemia Both sides of the body affected (symmetric) Depression Fatigue Fever Joint deformity Joint pain Joint redness Joint stiffness Joint swelling Joint tenderness Joint warmth Limping Loss of joint function Loss of joint range of motion Many joints affected (polyarthritis)
Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of arthritis that causes chronic inflammation of the spine. The tendency to develop ankylosing spondylitis is genetically inherited. Treatment incorporates medications, physical therapy, and exercise.
Crohn's disease is a chronic inflammatory disease, primarily involving the small and large intestine, but which can affect other parts of the digestive system as well. Abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and weight loss are common symptoms.
IBS vs. IBD: Differences and Similarities
IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) are both problems with the digestive tract (gastrointestinal or GI tract), but they are not the same disease. IBS is a functional disorder (a problem with the way the GI tract functions), and IBD is a disease that causes chronic prolonged inflammation of the GI tract, that can lead to ulcers and other problems that may require surgery. The most common forms of IBD are Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, or UC. Researchers do not know the exact cause of either disease, but they believe that IBS may be caused and triggered by a variety of factors (foods, stress, and the nervous system of the GI tract), while IBD may be genetic or due a problem with the immune system.Common symptoms of both diseases are an urgent need to have a bowel movement, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain and cramping. There are differences between the signs and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease, for example, symptoms unique to IBD are: Fever Joint pain or soreness Skin changes Rectal bleeding Anemia Eye redness or pain Unintentional weight loss Feeling tired Symptoms unique to irritable bowel syndrome include: Sexual problems Fibromyalgia Abdominal bloating Whitish mucous in the stool Changes in bowel movements and in the way stools look An urgent need to urinate Urinating frequently Treatment for IBS is with diet recommendations from a doctor or nutritionist, medication, and lifestyle changes like stress management and avoiding foods that trigger the condition. Treatments for IBD depend upon the type of disease, its symptoms, and health of the patient. Surgery may be necessary for some individuals.REFERENCES: Brown, AC, et al. "Existing Dietary Guidelines for Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis." Medscape. Lehrer, J. "Irritable Bowel Syndrome." Medscape. Updated: Apr 04, 2017. Rowe, W. "Inflammatory Bowel Disease." Medscape. Updated: Jun 17, 2016. Romanowski, A, MS, RD. "Matching the Right Diet to the Right Patient." Medscape. Jan 27, 2017.
Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammation of the colon. Symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea, and rectal bleeding. Ulcerative colitis is closely related to Crohn's disease, and together they are referred to as inflammatory bowel disease. Treatment depends upon the type of ulcerative colitis diagnosed.
Lupus (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus or SLE)
Systemic lupus erythematosus is a condition characterized by chronic inflammation of body tissues caused by autoimmune disease. Lupus can cause disease of the skin, heart, lungs, kidneys, joints, and nervous system. When only the skin is involved, the condition is called discoid lupus. When internal organs are involved, the condition is called systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
Primary Biliary Cirrhosis (PBC)
Primary Biliary Cirrhosis (PBS) is a liver disease in which bile building up in the organ damages bile ducts. Ultimately, this can cause liver failure. A number of drugs are available to treat this disease of unknown cause, but the only ultimate cure is a liver transplant.
Polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) is a disorder of the muscles and joints that causes pain and stiffness in the arms, neck, shoulders, and buttocks. Treatment for polymyalgia rheumatica aims to reduce inflammation with aspirin, ibuprofen, and low doses of cortisone medications.
Scleritis is inflammation of the white part of the eye. It may be caused by a serious underlying condition, such as an autoimmune disease. Symptoms include redness, pain, tearing, sensitivity to light, and decreased visual acuity. Treatment may include eye drops as well as treatment for any underlying disease process. Scleritis cannot be prevented.
Crohn's Disease vs. Ulcerative Colitis (UC)
Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are diseases that cause inflammation of part of or the entire digestive tract (GI). Crohn's affects the entire GI tract (from the mouth to the anus), while ulcerative colitis or UC only affects the large and small intestine and ilium. Researchers do not know the exact cause of either disease. About 20% of people with Crohn's disease also have a family member with the disease. Researchers believe that certain factors may play a role in causing UC. Both Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are a type of inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD. Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis both have similar symptoms and signs, for example, nausea, loss of appetite, fatigue, weight loss, episodic and/or persistent diarrhea, fever, abdominal pain and cramping, rectal bleeding, bloody stools, joint pain and soreness, eye redness, or pain. Symptoms unique to Crohn’s disease include anemia and skin changes. Symptoms of unique to ulcerative colitis include, certain rashes, an urgency to defecate (have a bowel movement). Doctors diagnose both diseases with similar tests and procedures. While there is no cure for either disease, doctors and other health care professionals can help you treat disease flares, and manage your Crohn's or UC with medication, diet, nutritional supplements, and/or surgery.
Pulmonary fibrosis is scarring throughout the lungs. Pulmonary fibrosis can be caused by many conditions including chronic inflammatory processes, infections, environmental agents, exposure to ionizing radiation, chronic conditions, and certain medications. Symptoms include shortness of breath, coughing, and diminished exercise tolerance. Treatment options are dependent on the type of pulmonary fibrosis; lung transplant and/or medications are options.
Sarcoidosis, a disease resulting from chronic inflammation, causes small lumps (granulomas) to develop in a great range of body tissues and can appear in almost any body organ. However, sarcoidosis most often starts in the lungs or lymph nodes.
Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease of the connective tissue. It is characterized by the formation of scar tissue (fibrosis) in the skin and organs of the body, leading to thickness and firmness of involved areas. Scleroderma is also referred to as systemic sclerosis, and the cause is unknown. Treatment of scleroderma is directed toward the individual features that are most troubling to the patient.
Vasculitis (Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Types)
Vasculitis (arteritis, angiitis) is a general term for a group of uncommon diseases which feature inflammation of the blood vessels. Each form of vasculitis has its own characteristic pattern of symptoms. The diagnosis of vasculitis is definitively established after a biopsy of involved tissue demonstrates the pattern of blood vessel inflammation. Treatment is directed toward decreasing the inflammation of the arteries and improving the function of affected organs.
Still's disease (systemic-onset juvenile rheumatoid arthritis) is a disorder characterized by inflammation with high fever spikes, fatigue, salmon-colored rash, and/or arthritis. Though there have been several theories regarding the cause(s) of Still's disease, the cause is not yet known. Many symptoms of Still's disease are often treatable with anti-inflammatory drugs.
Myasthenia gravis, a chronic autoimmune neuromuscular disease. Varying degrees of weakness of the voluntary muscles of the body are the main characteristics. A defect in the transmission of nerve impulses of the muscles is the cause of myasthenia gravis. Myasthenic crisis is when the muscles that control breathing weaken, which requires immediate medical attention. Symptoms include weakness of the eye muscles, facial expression, and difficulty swallowing. Treatment of myasthenia gravis includes medical therapies to control the symptoms of the disease.
Optic neuritis is inflammation of the optic nerve, the structure that connects the eye to the brain. The precise cause of optic neuritis is unknown, but it is thought to be a type of autoimmune disorder. Optic neuritis most commonly develops due to an autoimmune disorder that may be triggered by a viral infection.
Scalp Psoriasis (Psoriasis of the Scalp)
Scalp psoriasis causes red, raised, scaly patches that may extend from the scalp to the forehead and the back of the neck and ears. Symptoms and signs include itching, hair loss, flaking, silvery scales, and red plaques. Treatment includes topical medicated shampoos, creams, gels, oils, ointments, and soaps, medications, and light therapy.
Polymyositis is a disease of the muscle featuring inflammation of the muscle fibers. It results in weakness of the muscles which can be severe and when associated with skin rash, is referred to as dermatomyositis. Although the cause of this disease is unknown, diagnosis includes physical examination of muscle strength, blood tests for muscle enzymes, electrical tests of muscle and nerves, and conformation by a muscle biopsy. Treatment of polymyositis and dermatomyositis includes high doses of cortisone-related medications, immune suppression, and physical therapy.
Psoriatic arthritis is a disease that causes skin and joint inflammation. Symptoms and signs include painful, stiff, and swollen joints, tendinitis, and organ inflammation. Treatment involves anti-inflammatory medications and exercise.
Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC)
Primary sclerosing cholangitis or PSC is a disease of the liver. The cause of PSC is not known. Symptoms may include itching, fatigue, jaundice, fever, and confusion. The only treatment for Primary sclerosing cholangitis is a liver transplant.
Relapsing polychondritis is an uncommon, chronic disorder of the cartilage that is characterized by recurrent episodes of inflammation of the cartilage of various tissues of the body. Tissues containing cartilage that can become inflamed include the ears, nose, joints, spine, and windpipe (trachea). Tissues that have a biochemical makeup similar to that of cartilage such as the eyes, heart, and blood vessels, can also be affected. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) is used as treatment for mild cases of the disease. Steroid-related medications also are usually required.
Reactive arthritis is a chronic, systemic rheumatic disease characterized by three conditions, including conjunctivitis, joint inflammation, and genital, urinary, or gastrointestinal system inflammation. Inflammation leads to pain, swelling, warmth, redness, and stiffness of the affected joints. Non-joint areas may experience irritation and pain. Treatment for reactive arthritis depends on which area of the body is affected. Joint inflammation is treated with anti-inflammatory medications.
SAPHO syndrome is a chronic disorder that involves the skin, bone, and joints. SAPHO syndrome is an eponym for the combination of synovitis, acne, pustulosis, hyperostosis, and osteitis. SAPHO syndrome is related to arthritic conditions such as ankylosing spondylitis and reactive arthritis. Treatment is directed toward the individual symptoms that are present, and includes medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and cortisone medications.
Uveitis is inflammation of the eye. Symptoms include blurred vision, eye pain, eye redness, photophobia, and floaters. Treatment may involve prescription eyedrops, antibiotics, and wearing dark glasses.
Bullous pemphigoid is a skin disease that causes blistering eruptions on the skin's surface and sometimes affects the inner lining of the mouth. Symptoms include severe itching and burning sensations. Treatment involves topical cortisone and sometimes high doses of cortisone. Severe cases may require immune-suppression drugs such as azathioprine.
Eosinophilic Fasciitis (Shulman's Syndrome)
Eosinophilic fasciitis is a skin disease that causes thickening and inflammation of the skin and fascia. Symptoms include redness, warmth, and hardening of the skin, as well as occasional tissue and joint pain. Treatment for eosinophilic fasciitis aims to eliminate inflammation through the use of aspirin, NSAIDs, and cortisone. Aggressive forms of eosinophilic fasciitis may require the use of immune-suppression medications.
Takayasu disease (also referred to as Takayasu arteritis) is a chronic inflammation of the aorta and its branch arteries. Takayasu disease is most common of Women of Asian descent and usually begins between 10 and 30 years of age. Symptoms include painful extremities, dizziness, headaches, chest and abdominal pain, and a low-grade fever. Treatment for Takayasu disease includes cortisone medication to suppress the inflammation.
Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis)
Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (juvenile rheumatoid arthritis or JRA) annually affects one child in every thousand. There are six types of JIA. Treatment of juvenile arthritis depends upon the type the child has and should focus on treating the symptoms that manifest.
Granulomatosis with Polyangiitis
Granulomatosis with polyangiitis is a condition that usually affects young or middle-aged adults, is an inflammation of the arteries supplying blood to the sinuses, lungs, and kidneys. Symptoms of granulomatosis with polyangiitis include bloody sputum, fatigue, weight loss, joint pain, sinusitis, shortness of breath, and fever. Granulomatosis with polyangiitis may be fatal within months without treatment. Treatment aims to stop inflammation with high doses of prednisone and cyclophosphamide.
Male Breast Cancer
Male breast cancer accounts for 1% of all breast cancers, and most cases are found in men between the ages of 60 and 70. A man's risk of developing breast cancer is one in 1,000. Signs and symptoms include a firm mass located below the nipple and skin changes around the nipple, including puckering, redness or scaling, retraction and ulceration of the nipple. Treatment depends upon staging and the health of the patient.
Primary Biliary Cirrhosis Treatment (PBC)
Primary biliary sclerosis (PBC) is thought to be an autoimmune disorder that involves the deterioration of the liver's small bile ducts. These ducts are crucial to transport bile to the small intestine, digesting fats and removing wastes. Symptoms of PBC are: Edema Itching Elevated cholesterol Malabsorption of fat Liver cancer Gallstones Urinary tract infections (UTIs) Hypothyroidism Treatments include ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA); colchicine (Colcrys); and immunosuppressive medications, such as corticosteroids; obeticholic acid (Ocaliva); and medications that treat PBC symptoms. For PBC that is associated with cirrhosis of the liver, liver transplantation may be indicated in extreme cases.
Felty's syndrome is a complication of long-term rheumatoid arthritis. Felty's syndrome is defined by the presence of three conditions: rheumatoid arthritis, an enlarged spleen, and an abnormally low white blood count. Treatment of Felty's syndrome is not always required; however, treatment for patients with infections is available.
Cleft Palate and Cleft Lip
Cleft palate and cleft lip are facial and oral defects that occur early in pregnancy. A cleft lip is a split of the two sides of the upper lip, and a cleft palate is a split in the roof of the mouth. Cleft lip the fourth most common birth defect in the U.S. Repair of a cleft palate or cleft lip may require multiple surgeries.
Treatment & Diagnosis
- Crohn's Disease
- Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
- Psoriatic Arthritis
- Lung Cancer
- Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)
- Ulcerative Colitis
- Bladder Cancer
- Ankylosing Spondylitis (Bechterew's Disease)
- Doctor: Checklist to Take To Your Doctor's Appointment
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Ectopic Pregnancy
- Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis
- Pulmonary Fibrosis
- Rheumatoid Arthritis FAQs
- Psoriasis FAQs
- Ulcerative Colitis FAQs
- Ankylosing Spondylitis FAQs
- Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA): 17 Warning Signs of Serious Complications
- Patient Story: Rheumatoid Arthritis and Pregnancy
- Medication Disposal
- Dangers of Mixing Medications
- Drugs: Buying Prescription Drugs Online Safely
- Drugs: The Most Common Medication Errors
- How To Reduce Your Medication Costs
- Pharmacy Visit, How To Get The Most Out of Your Visit
- Indications for Drugs: Approved vs. Non-approved
- Arava Approved For Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Does Methotrexate Cause Liver Damage?
- Patient Story: Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment
- Psoriasis PUVA Therapy Can Increase Melanoma Risk
- Herbs: Toxicities and Drug Interactions
- Generic Drugs, Are They as Good as Brand-Names?
Medications & Supplements
Prevention & Wellness
- New Version of RA Drug Enbrel: FAQ
- FDA Approves New Biological Drug for Rheumatoid Arthritis
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- Girls Given Risky Meds Don't Get Contraceptive Advice
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- Lower Doses of Rheumatoid Arthritis Drugs May Work for Some
- Popular Crohn's, Colitis Drugs Not Linked to Short-Term Cancer Risk: Study
- Drug Shows Promise Against Arthritis Common in People with Psoriasis
- Childhood Arthritis: Aggressive Treatment Better?
- RA Strategy: Treat Early, but With What Medicines?
- Treatment Options Expand for Psoriasis Patients
- Expensive or Not, Rheumatoid Arthritis Drugs Have Similar Effect: Study
- Rheumatoid Arthritis Drugs Have Same Impact on Time Lost at Work: Study
- Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment May Not Work As Well for Heavier Patients
- Standard Rheumatoid Arthritis Therapy as Good as Costlier Newcomer: Study
- Ectopic Pregnancy Treatments Have Similar Effects on Fertility
- 5 Rheumatology Procedures You Might Not Need
- Newer Rheumatoid Arthritis Drugs Don't Seem to Increase Risk of Shingles
- Hoping to Ease Shortage, FDA Fast-Tracks Generic Form of Cancer Drug
- New Arthritis Drug Xeljanz Gets FDA Approval
- Lupus May Be Linked to Serious Pregnancy Complication
- Some Psoriasis Therapies May Cut Heart Attack Risk
- Pill Instead of a Needle May Soon Be Option for RA
- HIV Drug May Prevent Bone Marrow Transplant Complication
- Newer Drugs Help RA Patients Live Longer
- Study: Actemra Tops Rival in Rheumatoid Arthritis
- 'Uncertainty' Remains Over Supply of Key Cancer Drugs
- For Juvenile Arthritis, Pill May Work as Well as Needle
- Arthritis in Children Linked to Infections
- New Psoriasis Drugs Not Much Better Than Standard Therapy, Study Finds
- 'Chemo Brain' May Linger 20 Years After Breast Cancer Treatment
- FDA Moves to Head Off Shortages of 2 Cancer Drugs
- Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis Affect Birth Rates
- Health Highlights: Feb. 14, 2012
- FDA Thinks Shortage of Cancer Drug for Kids Can Be Averted
- Health Highlights: Feb. 13, 2012
- Chemo May Not Harm Unborn Baby
- Voraxaze Approved to Treat High Levels of Chemo Drug
- Pill for RA Works as Well as Shot
- Experimental Drug May Help Treat Psoriasis
- New Oral RA Drug Works in Unique Way
- Psoriasis Guidelines Call for Tailored Treatment
- Smoking May Interfere With RA Treatment
- Chemo During Pregnancy OK
- RA Drug Methotrexate Is Recalled
- Treating Psoriasis If Enbrel Fails
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