Rheumatoid Arthritis: Risks and Benefits of Chemotherapy Treatments

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Chemotherapy is most often associated with cancer treatment, but it is also used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder in which your own body mounts an immune attack on your joints. 

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According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, this immune response causes inflammation and pain in the joints, particularly in the hands and feet. It can also affect the heart and lungs. 
 
The chemotherapy drugs used to treat rheumatoid arthritis are called disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs. Pain medications like ibuprofen or naproxen patients use to relieve pain and inflammation only treat the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, but DMARDs treat the underlying cause of rheumatoid arthritis by changing the body’s immune response so it will stop attacking the joints, explains Healthgrades. 
 
While chemotherapy is effective for rheumatoid arthritis, symptom relief can take months, and there are many potential side effects. Your physician will monitor your progress and occasionally take a blood sample. You may need to try a few different drugs before finding the best one. 
 
The most common chemotherapy drug used in rheumatoid arthritis treatment is methotrexate
 
According to Drugs.com, methotrexate can produce a long list of side effects. Some of the the minor side effects include:
* temporary hair loss
* decreased appetite
* nausea and vomiting
* skin rashes
* acne
 
More severe side effects warrant an immediate consultation with your physician. These severe side effects include, but are not limited to:
* bloody vomit and stool
* joint pain
* mouth sores
* stomach pain
* diarrhea
* swelling in the legs
* blurred vision
* dizziness
* fever and chills
* shortness of breath
* convulsions
 
Two other drugs, Imuran and Cytoxin, are less commonly used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, says WebMD. These drugs can produce more severe, life-threatening side effects than methotrexate. 
 
The American College of Rheumatology recommends that all patients diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis be treated early with chemotherapy because early treatment slows down the damage to joints. People who start treatment early are more likely to keep joints functioning for a longer period of time. 
 
Have you tried chemotherapy for your RA? How did you find it?
 

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Beginning of the discussion - 1/15/19

Rheumatoid Arthritis: Risks and Benefits of Chemotherapy Treatments

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Have you tried chemotherapy for your RA? Any success? Opinions?

Feel free to read the article and post your thoughts!

 

@CarolM@notup!@Margarita@karm!nR@Joemerrill@Jucompton13@rtr097u1@Mookie5000‍ ‍ @Kerri4@mcheney1214@Jennylovescats@A.bach@Juliekay0804@Mbuletza@Jennybee@zrjsval@Klaw328@LeisaA@Elisia1969@Lubkakel@Gloria55@68padres@Mimf18@Lea.Blas@dkaglear‍ 

Rheumatoid Arthritis: Risks and Benefits of Chemotherapy Treatments
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I have not tried chemotherapy for my RA.  However, my sister has.  She was on it for several years, but it really did not help much.  It was experimental when she began.  Her RA has affected her lungs severely that’s why they were trying such a treatment. 

Rheumatoid Arthritis: Risks and Benefits of Chemotherapy Treatments

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@zrjsval‍ Thank you for sharing your experience with your sister's use of the drug for RA. I am sorry to hear how her RA has spread and is now affecting her lungs too.

Is she on any other experimental treatments?

Rheumatoid Arthritis: Risks and Benefits of Chemotherapy Treatments
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I don’t have any knowledge of the medications she’s taking other than the chemo.  I’ve never asked her about the names of medicines. As far as I know, she is not on anything else experimental. 

Rheumatoid Arthritis: Risks and Benefits of Chemotherapy Treatments
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I have tried methotrexate and I had a severe allergic reaction to it so I’m not willing to try again and I don’t want the severe side effects 

Rheumatoid Arthritis: Risks and Benefits of Chemotherapy Treatments
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I m on Methatroxate since last 3 years but I don't feel any improvement rather I can say that it's flaring up I took leflenomide*20 mg daily also

Rheumatoid Arthritis: Risks and Benefits of Chemotherapy Treatments
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I take a very low does of methotrexate once a week along with my remicade infusion every 6 weeks. I was first only on remicade but starting coming up with a very itchy unexplainable rash that didnt get better or worse after an infusion. With the work of my amazing "rheumy" we thought it was my arthritis trying to cause an inflammatory response somewhere else in my body (ie my skin). So I started methotrexate and the rash cleared right up! I was leary about trying it after reading about it but my sanity and not itching won this one!

Rheumatoid Arthritis: Risks and Benefits of Chemotherapy Treatments

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Wow everyone seems to have had bad experiences. Thank you for the helpful comments everyone.

So @Vettech07‍ you feel it is helping you though?

Rheumatoid Arthritis: Risks and Benefits of Chemotherapy Treatments

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@rtr097u1‍ it's hard to say because I also get Remicade infusions. It did stop my itchy rash and i dont have any nasty side effects from it. So it's not all bad but I dont think it would completely control my symptoms on it's own. I'm also not comfortable with taking a bigger dose as chances for side effects can go up.