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Also called: Disease Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs

- Summary
- About DMARDs
- Types and differences
- Conditions treated
- Conditions of concern
- Potential side effects
- Drug or other interactions
- Symptoms of overdose
- Pregnancy, child and elderly use issues
- Questions for your doctor

Reviewed By:
Vikas Garg, M.D., MSA


Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) decrease or stop joint damage caused by Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that can cause joint pain and inflammation (arthritis).conditions including rheumatoid arthritis (RA), lupus, psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. DMARDs reduce swelling and pain, slowing or sometimes stopping the progression of the condition being treated.

Some DMARDs are used mainly to treat cancer or prevent rejection of an organ transplant.  

Exactly how DMARDs work is not completely understood, but they appear to help suppress the immune system. RA, the condition for which DMARDs are most often prescribed, is an autoimmune disease, in which the body mistakenly attacks its own tissues. This causes joint inflammation that can cause irreparable damage.

Many physicians prescribe DMARDs early in the diagnosis of RA. Research has shown that DMARDs can prevent or delay damage to joints. However, they have some potentially serious side effects, such as headache, cold or flu-like symptoms and stomach pain. Patients who have been prescribed DMARDs are monitored regularly by a physician.

DMARDs do not provide immediate relief and may take months to be effective. Treatments may involve multiple DMARDs or a combination of DMARDs and other medicines, such as NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). As a result, numerous drug combinations involving DMARDs are possible.

They are usually taken by mouth but can also be injected, usually in the physician’s office or in a hospital. DMARDs are available only by prescription.

Some medical conditions (e.g., alcoholism) make the use of DMARDs less effective or even dangerous, depending on the medication being used and the condition itself. Pregnant or breastfeeding women are generally discouraged from taking DMARDs in most circumstances. Children can take DMARDs for certain conditions, such as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, but are monitored closely for side effects. 

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Review Date: 02-23-2007

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