What Is Azathioprine and Which Are the Azathioprine Side Effects

azathioprine side effectsWhat Is Azathioprine

Azathioptine is an immunosuppressive drug, in other words, a drug used to block the activity of the immune system. It’s used especially to prevent organ rejections after transplant, but it’s also used to treat and manage autoimmune diseases, like Crohn’s disease, autoimmune hepatitis, rheumatoid arthritis, restrictive lung disease, atopic dermatitis, myasthenia gravis, neuromyelitis optica, multiple sclerosis.

Azathioprine Side Effects

Since it’s an immunosuppressive drug, the first of the azathioprine side effects on the list should be the susceptibility to infection. Any patient under medication with this drug should minimize their contact with people that present signs of a mild infection.

Some of the short-term azathioprine side effects are nausea, gastrointestinal problems, or even infections of the gastrointestinal tract, hair loss, skin rashes, fatigue, malaise, muscle cramps, fever (which is usually a sign of infection).

Patients on medication with azathioprine for inflammatory bowel diseases, like Crohn’s disease are exposed to an increased risk of acute pancreatitis.

Although cancer is not a direct side effect of azathioprine, patients that receive treatment with this drug for various diseases that require transplantation, have predisposition for certain types of cancer. There were cases of patients, especially young adult males, who have developed hepatosplenic T-cell lymphoma after medication with azathioprine for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

Also, patients that have experienced a transplant and received a treatment with azathioprine, are exposed to a high risk of developing skin cancer even after up to 20 years from the treatment. But in general, skin cancer has always been linked to the medication with immunosuppressive drugs.

Needless to say, some of the azathioprine side effects can be of allergic nature. These can be skin rashes, skin itchiness, edema, swelling of the mouth and tongue, breathing problems.

Azathioprine Interactions and Precautions

First of all, since this drug will reduce the activity of your immune system, you should tell your doctor if you have any active infections. These have to be treated before starting medication with azathioprine. Also, for the whole duration of treatment with azathioprine you should minimize your exposure to any infection, use sharp objects with care, avoid heavy lifting, sports etc. Decreased functions of the bone marrow, blood disorders, liver or kidney disease, or history with cancer are conditions that must be reported to your doctor before starting the treatment with this drug.

Medication with azathioprine is not recommended during pregnancy because it may cause fetal malformation.

Azathioprine should not be administered in conjunction with Allopurinol. Azathioprine is firstly metabolised to 6-mercatopurine, and Allopurinol blocks the second step of the metabolisation process which results in high plasma levels of 6-mercartopurine. This results in toxic effects on various tissues and the bone marrow, leading to trombocytopenia, leucopenia, blood dyscrasias or pancytopenia.

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