Understanding psoriasis

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disorder that causes your skin cells to grow much more quickly than normal. This abnormal growth causes patches of your skin to become thick and scaly. Symptoms of psoriasis can affect you physically, but they can also affect you socially. The visible rash from psoriasis causes many people to withdraw from their normal social activities to avoid unwanted attention.

To complicate matters, psoriasis can be difficult to treat. The many different treatments for psoriasis include a combination of prescription creams or ointments, oral tablets, or injections. Your treatment options depend on the severity of your disease.

Methotrexate is sometimes used to treat difficult cases of psoriasis. Read on to find out about using this drug for psoriasis.

Methotrexate for psoriasis

Methotrexate typically is only used to treat severe cases of psoriasis, when the symptoms are debilitating. It’s also used for psoriasis that hasn’t responded to other treatments. It’s usually prescribed for brief periods, but it can be used for up to six months in some people. The goal of treatment is to reduce the severity of your psoriasis so that you can return to milder therapy that you apply to your skin.

Methotrexate doesn’t just work on your skin rash like some other psoriasis treatments do. Rather, it suppresses the cells of your immune system that cause the psoriasis rash. Because of the way it works, methotrexate can cause many side effects.

The drug is broken down by your liver and then eliminated from your body by the kidneys. It can cause harmful effects to these organs if used for long periods. Your doctor may test your blood regularly while you take methotrexate. These tests help your doctor check that the drug is not affecting your liver or kidneys. Blood tests are usually done every 2 to 3 months, but you may need them more often while your doctor adjusts your dosage.

For most people, the benefit of methotrexate lasts at least two years. To help get the best results, you need to follow the directions your doctor gives you for taking this drug.

Dosage

When treating severe psoriasis, you usually take methotrexate once per week as an oral tablet or injectable solution. The typical starting dose is 10 to 25 milligrams (mg). Your doctor will have you take this amount once per week until they notice that it’s working well.

Some people can become nauseated by the weekly dose. For them, a doctor may prescribe three 2.5-mg oral doses per week. These smaller doses should be taken by mouth at 12-hour intervals.

Once the drug is working, your doctor will reduce your dose to the lowest possible amount that still works. This helps reduce the risk of side effects.

Side effects of methotrexate

Methotrexate can cause many side effects. Your risk of side effects is usually related to how much you use and how long you use it. The more and longer you use methotrexate, the more likely side effects are to happen.

The most common side effects of methotrexate include:

  • mouth sores
  • nausea and upset stomach
  • tiredness
  • chills
  • fever
  • dizziness
  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • hair loss
  • easy bruising

The more serious side effects of this drug include:

  • liver damage
  • kidney damage
  • lung disease
  • reduced number of red blood cells, which can lead to anemia
  • reduced number of platelets, which can lead to abnormal bleeding
  • reduced number of white blood cells, which can lead to infections

Talk with your doctor

The goal in the treatment of psoriasis is to minimize or remove psoriasis flares. Methotrexate is just one treatment that may accomplish this. It should be used only in severe cases, and it can be difficult to live with its side effects. Be sure to discuss with your doctor all the possible therapies that could work for you and ensure methotrexate is right for you.

If therapy with methotrexate is your primary treatment, your doctor will try to control your severe psoriasis with the smallest amount of the drug for the shortest time. This will allow you eventually to use a milder treatment and keep your psoriasis in check.

Your doctor may also recommend certain lifestyle changes, such as diet changes and stress reduction, that may improve your condition.

To get the best results, take your medication as prescribed by your doctor. Ask any questions you have about your condition or medication. If your condition isn’t improving or if you begin to have side effects, tell your doctor so they can adjust your dosage or change therapies. You can also learn more about turmeric and other treatments for psoriasis.