Methotrexate is also known by brand names Trexall, Rheumatrex dose pack, Folex PFS and Methotrexate Sodium. The drug is used to treat specific types of cancer such as breast cancer, skin cancer, lung cancer and certain cancers found in the head and neck. It has also been successfully used to treat other conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis. This medication is typically given to a patient for one of the above mentioned medical conditional after other medications have proven to be unsuccessful.
In order for methotrexate to be successful, it must be taken correctly. The typical dosage is one to two times per day, although the medication is not typically taken every day. The actual dosage and directions for taking methotrexate will depend on a number of factors including the severity of the medical condition for which it is being taken.
As with most medications, methotrexate can cause specific side effects. It has been known to produce serious effects on the lungs, liver, bone marrow and kidneys. Because of the potential for life-threatening side effects, it is highly recommended that this medication always be taken correctly and on time and never for longer than prescribed by a doctor. Those who have liver disease, particularly if the disease has been caused by alcoholism, as well as those with bone marrow or blood cell conditions should never use this medication for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis or psoriasis. Women who are pregnant or breast feeding should also avoid methotrexate as it has been proven to cause specific birth defects in unborn fetuses. In order to guard against serious or life-threatening side effects from taking the medication, blood tests are typically done regularly on patients who have been prescribed this medication. Testing is also routinely done on the liver and kidneys of patients on methotrexate.
Many medications have been shown to adversely interact with methotrexate. Certain medicines are worse than others so your doctor should be informed about all medicines that you currently take including over the counter medicines, minerals, herbal supplements, vitamins and any other drugs. If you are on a number of different medications, be certain that you write out a list to show to your doctor before he or she prescribes methotrexate to you as it is not known just what effect certain medications may have on patients taking this drug along with certain other drugs.
There are a variety of other conditions that may require a dosage adjustment or specialized tests to ensure safety when taking this medication. Those with kidney or liver disease, pneumonia or any lung disease or disorder, stomach ulcers, infections of any type and particularly those who may be receiving radiation treatments for cancer should inform their doctors of these conditions prior to beginning a methotrexate prescription. Also, those who may become pregnant during treatment should inform their doctors right away. It is very important to understand that birth control should be used while taking this medication, even if you are a man. Studies have shown that birth defects from methotrexate have been linked to both the mother and the father taking the medication.
Some side effects that have been reported and can be very serious include shortness of breath, hives, dry cough, difficulty breathing, swelling of the throat, face, tongue or lips, diarrhea and vomiting, bloody urine or stools, difficulty urinating, sore throat with headache and blistering on the body, fever and flu like symptoms and a loss of appetite when accompanied by jaundice or yellowing of the skin and/or eyes. As with most medications, methotrexate does include milder and more common side effects including fatigue and/or dizziness, headache, upset stomach and/or vomiting, bleeding of the gums and slightly blurred vision. If your symptoms are terribly uncomfortable you should report them to your doctor right away.