Understanding the Side Effects of Suddenly Stopping Methotrexate

Methotrexate is a widely used medication prescribed for various conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and certain types of cancer. It belongs to a class of drugs known as antimetabolites and works by interfering with the growth of certain cells in the body.

While methotrexate can be highly effective in managing these conditions, it’s crucial to be aware of the potential side effects, especially when discontinuing the medication abruptly. When discontinuing methotrexate abruptly, you may encounter a range of adverse effects. These can include a resurgence of symptoms, increased pain, and potential complications.

We will give a thorough overview of the potential outcomes that may arise from suddenly discontinuing methotrexate.

Suddenly Stopping Methotrexate

What is Methotrexate?

Methotrexate is a powerful medication that belongs to a class of drugs known as disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs). Originally developed as a chemotherapy agent for treating various types of cancer, it was later discovered to be highly effective in managing autoimmune disorders and inflammatory conditions.

Methotrexate works by inhibiting the activity of an enzyme known as dihydrofolate reductase, which is crucial for the synthesis of DNA, RNA, and proteins in rapidly dividing cells. By interfering with these processes, methotrexate effectively suppresses the abnormal immune responses responsible for conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.

What is Methotrexate Used For?

Methotrexate is a cornerstone in the treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis. This chronic autoimmune disorder leads to inflammation in the joints, causing pain, stiffness, and swelling. By suppressing the abnormal immune responses responsible for joint damage, methotrexate significantly alleviates these symptoms.

In dermatology, methotrexate is an established treatment for severe cases of psoriasis. This chronic skin condition manifests as red, scaly patches that can be physically and emotionally distressing. Methotrexate effectively targets the rapid growth of skin cells, leading to a reduction in the severity and frequency of psoriatic flare-ups.

Beyond its dermatological applications, methotrexate is also utilized in cases of psoriatic arthritis. This condition combines joint inflammation with the characteristic skin manifestations of psoriasis. By addressing both aspects, methotrexate offers comprehensive relief to individuals affected by this dual burden.

In oncology, methotrexate has a storied history as a chemotherapy agent. It is employed in the treatment of specific types of cancer, including leukemia, lymphoma, and certain tumors. At higher doses, methotrexate disrupts the rapid growth of cancer cells, impeding their ability to multiply and spread.

Methotrexate is occasionally used in cases of ectopic pregnancy. This is a potentially life-threatening condition where a fertilized egg implants outside the uterus. By halting the growth of the developing embryo, methotrexate offers a non-surgical alternative for managing ectopic pregnancies.

For individuals grappling with inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, methotrexate can be a valuable treatment option. By reducing inflammation in the digestive tract, it provides relief from the debilitating symptoms associated with these conditions.

In addition to these primary applications, methotrexate may also be prescribed for other autoimmune disorders like systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and vasculitis. Its versatility in treating a range of conditions underscores its significance in modern medicine.

It’s important to note that the use of methotrexate should always be under the supervision of a healthcare provider, who will monitor for potential side effects and adjust the dosage as necessary.

Read Also: How to know if we have osteoarthritis or arthritis?

Potential Side Effects of Stopping Methotrexate Suddenly

Stopping methotrexate suddenly, especially without medical guidance, can lead to various side effects. Here are some potential side effects of abruptly stopping methotrexate:

Disease Flare-Ups

One of the most concerning outcomes of discontinuing methotrexate abruptly is the risk of experiencing a flare-up of the underlying condition it was prescribed for. This is particularly common in individuals with rheumatoid arthritis or psoriasis. These conditions can worsen rapidly without the stabilizing effect of methotrexate.

Increased Pain and Inflammation

Methotrexate plays a pivotal role in reducing pain and inflammation associated with conditions like rheumatoid arthritis. When stopped suddenly, patients may experience a surge in pain levels and increased joint inflammation, leading to discomfort and reduced mobility.

Recurrence of Symptoms

For individuals using methotrexate to manage certain types of cancer, discontinuation without proper tapering can lead to a resurgence of cancer-related symptoms. This can be detrimental to the overall treatment plan and may require adjustments in the therapeutic approach.

Liver Function Disruption

Methotrexate is metabolized by the liver, and sudden cessation of the medication can disrupt normal liver function. This may manifest as elevated liver enzymes, which can have serious implications for overall health.

Gastrointestinal Distress

Some individuals may experience gastrointestinal side effects when abruptly discontinuing methotrexate. This can include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, further emphasizing the importance of a gradual cessation plan.

Weakening of the Immune System

Methotrexate can suppress the immune system, which is beneficial in certain medical conditions. However, when stopped suddenly, the immune system may rebound, potentially leading to an overactive immune response or increased susceptibility to infections.


The decision to discontinue methotrexate should never be taken lightly. The potential side effects are general and may vary depending on individual factors like dosage, duration of use, and underlying health conditions.

It is absolutely crucial to work closely with your healthcare provider when considering any changes in your medication regimen, including stopping methotrexate. They can provide you with a safe and effective plan for discontinuation, and monitor you for any potential side effects.