Methotrexate toxicity

Methotrexate Toxicity: Symptoms, Effects and Treatment

Methotrexate is a chemotherapy drug used to treat several types of cancer, as well as autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. While it is generally a safe medication, methotrexate can potentially cause serious side effects as a result of drug toxicity. Therefore, it’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of methotrexate toxicity, as well as treatment options for those experiencing toxicity.

Signs and Symptoms of Methotrexate Toxicity

Methotrexate can cause a range of effects when it builds up in your body, including:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Mouth sores
  • Increased sensitivity to the sun
  • Skin rashes or hives

Methotrexate toxicity can also cause more serious symptoms, including:

  • Kidney problems
  • Liver toxicity
  • Low white blood cell count (which can increase your risk of infection)
  • Pulmonary toxicity (lung irritation and inflammation)
  • Gastrointestinal ulcers
  • Confusion, depression or thoughts of suicide
  • Seizures

Causes of Methotrexate Toxicity

Several factors can contribute to methotrexate toxicity. These include:

  • Taking too much methotrexate — either too high of a dose or taking it too frequently
  • Kidney or liver problems (which can interfere with how the body processes methotrexate)
  • Using other medications that interact with methotrexate, including over-the-counter (OTC) medications and some vitamins and supplements

Treatment for Methotrexate Toxicity

If you experience methotrexate toxicity, your healthcare team will likely stop your methotrexate and lower its dose. This can help reduce the presence of methotrexate in your body. Depending on your symptoms, your healthcare team may also suggest:

  • Intravenous hydration
  • Medications to reduce nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain
  • Corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and treat some symptoms of methotrexate toxicity
  • Blood tests to monitor your white blood cell count
  • Be monitored by a nephrologist (kidney specialist) if kidney damage is suspected

It’s important to speak with your healthcare team if you experience any of the above signs and symptoms of methotrexate toxicity when taking this medication.