Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on November 15, 2021

Sulfasalazine is prescribed to people with rheumatoid arthritis because it is known to decrease the pain and swelling in arthritis. It also lowers your risk of long-term disability and prevents joint damage. 

Sulfasalazine is available under the brand name Azulfidine. 

Since it is a sulfa drug, people with a sulfa allergy should not use sulfasalazine. It is best to speak to your doctor about your history of allergies. Along with rheumatoid arthritis, sulfasalazine is also recommended for the treatment of other autoimmune conditions and inflammatory bowel syndrome. 

It works by lowering inflammation in the body. 

How to Take Sulfasalazine?

Sulfasalazine is available as a 500 milligrams tablet. You have to take it with water and food to prevent the possibility of an upset stomach. Your doctor will prescribe the medication to you at a low dose to avoid side effects. 

You may have to take one or two tablets a day. After the first week, your doctor may increase the dose slowly to two tablets daily. In some cases, people with rheumatoid arthritis may have to take up to six pills in a day. 

You should not chew or crush sulfasalazine tablets. Also, it is crucial to drink a lot of water when taking sulfasalazine. Otherwise, the tablet can cause kidney stones. 

People who use sulfasalazine typically take two to three months to see any improvement in the symptoms of their rheumatoid arthritis. 

Sulfasalazine Precautions

Before you take sulfasalazine:

  • Tell your doctor about any allergies, especially if you are allergic to aspirin and sulfa drugs. 
  • Tell your doctor about other prescription medications you are using. 
  • If you have ever had liver disease, blood problems, kidney disease, or asthma, make sure your doctor knows about this. 
  • If you plan to conceive or are pregnant, tell your doctor. 

Side Effects of Sulfasalazine

Sulfasalazine may have the following side effects: 

  • Vomiting 
  • Stomach pain 
  • Upset stomach
  • Headache 
  • Loss of appetite

You may also have severe side effects like sore throat, itching, fever, joint pain, skin rash, and hives. Stop taking the medication immediately and speak to your doctor if you experience any of these side effects. 

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Photo Credit: Medicimage / Science Source

American College of Rheumatology: "Sulfasalazine (Azulfidine)."
Drugs: "Sulfasalazine."
MedlinePlus: "Sulfasalazine."

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