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How Does Methotrexate Treat Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Methotrexate for Your RA

Methotrexate is one of the most effective medications to treat rheumatoid arthritis (RA). It's the first drug most doctors prescribe after you’re diagnosed.

It will help ease symptoms like joint pain, fatigue, redness, and swelling. It may also help prevent damage to your organs and joints.

Recommended Related to Rheumatoid Arthritis

WebMD 5: Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is perhaps the most common inflammatory arthritis in the world, says Gary S. Firestein, MD, professor of medicine, dean and associate vice chancellor of translational medicine at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine. In the United States, an estimated 1.3 million people have the disease, and it affects two to three times as many women as men. And RA may be on the rise in women, according to a 2010 Mayo Clinic study. After decades of decline, the...

Read the WebMD 5: Rheumatoid Arthritis article > >

How Does It Work?

Methotrexate interrupts the process that causes RA inflammation, which damages your joints and organs over time.

Your doctor may call it a “DMARD,” which is a type of RA drug. (DMARD stands for disease-modifying antirheumatic drug).

How Do You Take It?

You can take methotrexate in either pills or shots. There are prefilled methotrexate shots that are easy to take at home.

You will take 7.5 to 10 milligrams each week. Your doctor may raise that to 20-25 milligrams per week if needed.

The pills will come with directions about how many to take and when. If you’re not sure about those instructions, ask your doctor or a pharmacist.

Shots work better for some people, especially if you forget to take your pills on schedule or if the pills cause nausea. Methotrexate liquid comes in vials with a hypodermic needle or in prefilled pens with various doses.

You inject the drug under the skin on your stomach or thigh. Your doctor or nurse will show you how to do this at home. If you use a prefilled pen, you’ll stick the pen into your stomach or thigh and press on it to inject the drug. Try to give yourself your shot in a different spot each time. This will help you avoid skin reactions.

It can take 3 to 6 weeks to start to feel your methotrexate work. It takes even longer -- 12 weeks -- to get the full effects.

Your doctor will test your blood often to check on how well your treatment works and to make sure it’s safe for organs such as your liver.

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