Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic health condition characterised by the inflammation of the joints and adjacent joint tissues. At times, inflammation is manifested in other parts of the body, such as the eyes and lungs. Since several organs are affected, it is often considered to be a systemic disease. As per statistics, it is estimated that about one percent of the world's population suffers from rheumatoid arthritis. It is also observed that women are at a higher risk of developing this condition as compared to men.
The exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis is not known. Medical researchers are of the opinion that it results from the autoimmune responses of the body. Under such conditions, the immune system secretes substances that attack the body's own tissues and organs, resulting in inflammation. In addition, both genetic and environmental factors also trigger rheumatoid arthritis. Major symptoms include joint pain, joint swelling, increased fatigue, fever, and weight loss. Treatment involves medications, surgical procedures, and lifestyle modifications.
Methotrexate Therapy: Effective for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are commonly prescribed for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. They are a group of drugs formulated to minimise the damage of the joints and organs. One of the effective DMARDs is methotrexate. Studies have revealed that methotrexate taken in combination with other cytotoxic drugs may be more effective as a treatment option.
Methotrexate affects the activity of certain enzymes (for example, dihydrofolate reductase) responsible for immune responses. Hence, this drug slows down the disease progression by acting indirectly on the immune system. Methotrexate also minimises the damage caused the chances of low mobility and long-term disability can be reduced by administration of the drug in proper doses. It also helps in managing joint pain and swelling, which are the commonly manifested symptoms.
Methotrexate is available in the form of pills (2.5 mg) or injections. The dosage may vary based on the severity of the disease and health condition of the affected individual. Very often, the beginning dose is 7.5-10 mg for adults. Unlike other medications, methotrexate is taken only once a week. It is a slow acting drug improvement may be observed after 2 months. At times, the orthopaedic may extend the therapy to six months or even 12 months, depending upon the patient's condition.
Very often, orthopaedic recommends other fast acting medications, so as to manage the painful symptoms effectively. The patient should disclose if he is currently taking any medication. Chemically, methotrexate is a folic acid antagonist. Hence, folic acid supplements should be taken along with this drug. These supplements are also effective in combating the side effects of methotrexate therapy.
Methotrexate, similar to other potential drugs, is associated with certain side effects, especially when administered without a proper prescription. Notable side effects are skin disorder, nausea, vomiting, difficulty in breathing, cough, and hair loss. A severe adverse effect is damage to the liver tissues. Considering this, the orthopaedic may routinely examine the liver functioning during the course of treatment.
The risk for abnormal liver functioning is high among people who drink alcohol while undergoing methotrexate therapy. Overall, it is more effective if the treatment is started in the early stages. Though there may be certain side-effects of the drug, the benefits outweigh them, especially for those who do not respond to other treatment options.