The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 54.4 million Americans live with a type of arthritis. Arthritis is often treated with a combination of lifestyle changes and medications. A common type of medication to treat rheumatoid arthritis—an autoimmune disease—is known as disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), which helps to reduce the attacks of the immune system on the joints. These drugs achieve this by releasing a chemical that blocks the effects of the immune system. In turn, it prevents further damage from occurring, which can lead to disfiguration of the joints and can make use of the joints quite challenging.
A new study suggests that a specific DMARD known as methotrexate can contribute to a sick liver.
Arthritis drug contributes to a sick liver
Although methotrexate is normally well tolerated, for some patients, its use can contribute to liver failure. In one specific case, a 69-year old UK male died of liver failure as a result of toxicity from methotrexate. The patient was prescribed the medication to treat psoriasis, as it has been found to bind to the enzymes that lead to skin conditions spread by inhibiting the enzyme.
The patients who are prescribed methotrexate for rheumatoid arthritis are also prescribed a corticosteroid for pain relief. Side effects reported from the use of methotrexate include loss of appetite, sore mouth, diarrhea, headache, hair loss, and feelings of sickness.
In some cases, the medication can affect blood cell counts and the liver. In rare cases, methotrexate can impact the lungs, and doctors will perform x-rays and lung performance tests to monitor the health of the lungs.
Although these side effects don’t affect all patients equally, patients should still be aware of the risk methotrexate carries with it. On the other hand, if you are currently taking methotrexate, you should not stop it without your doctor’s guidance. Instead, speak to your doctor about your concerns and see if you are at risk for any complications related to the use of methotrexate. There may be another type of DMARDs that your doctor can suggest.
In the meantime, it’s important that you work to improve the health of your liver.
Tips to improve liver health
Eat healthily. This is a no-brainer—good health begins with proper nutrition. Just as you can eat to improve your heart, you can also eat to improve your liver.
Diet affects the liver because eventually, everything we take in makes its way through the liver. The liver is responsible for removing toxins and metabolizing substances so that the body can use them. Therefore, you don’t want to eat bad food that can make your liver sick. Instead, opt for healthy food choices, avoid saturated and trans-fat, reduce your alcohol intake, and stock up on vegetables.
Avoid alcohol: Alcohol is a big threat to the liver. This is because alcohol is very hard for your liver to break down. It can increase the risk of damage to the liver, which can deteriorate it over time.
Quit smoking: If you’re a smoker, there is another reason to quit: It can harm your liver. Toxins in cigarette smoke can travel to the liver, and if you already have a liver problem, smoking can worsen your condition.
Exercise regularly: Yes, your liver can also benefit from regular exercise just like all your other organs. This is because fat can accumulate around the liver, leading to disease. Therefore, regular exercise helps you burn off fat. Furthermore, exercise is a stress reliever and stress is another enemy of the liver.
Pencil in relaxation time: As mentioned, stress is an enemy of the liver. Taking the time to unwind and relax can help you recharge overall.
Speak to your doctor about supplements and medications: Supplements and medications both end up passing through the liver, and many of these aren’t safe for your liver. Prior to beginning any supplement or medication, always speak to your doctor.
Liver disease is a very serious health threat, and if not caught early enough, it can ultimately lead to liver failure or death. By adhering to these simple lifestyle changes, you will have greater success in maintaining a healthy liver.