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What Is Leflunomide Used For?

If you have rheumatoid arthritis, your healthcare provider may prescribe leflunomide. This disease-modifying antirheumatic drug works by relieving symptoms, improving physical function, and slowing down the progression of the disease. Although this drug is only approved for use in adults, leflunomide can be used off-label to treat juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.

An Introduction to Uses for Leflunomide

Leflunomide (Arava®) is a prescription medication approved for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. It works in several ways, such as:
  • Reducing the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis
  • Preventing further damage to the joints
  • Improving physical function.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease that causes inflammation of the joints, leading to pain, swelling, stiffness, and loss of function. It is considered an autoimmune disease, which is a type of disease in which the immune system mistakes healthy body tissue as foreign matter, and attacks it. With rheumatoid arthritis, the body attacks its own joints.
The most commonly affected joints in rheumatoid arthritis are the fingers, wrists, knees, ankles, and toes. Generally, both sides of the body are affected equally. This means that if you have rheumatoid arthritis of the knees, for example, both knees would be affected, rather than just one.
Symptoms usually begin slowly, and may include fatigue, occasional fevers, and a general ill feeling. Eventually, joint pain occurs on both sides of the body. Joints may be swollen, stiff (especially in the morning or during inactivity), and warm to the touch. If the disease progresses, it can cause joint damage and loss of physical function. People may also have symptoms outside of the affected joints (see Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms for more information).
In some people with rheumatoid arthritis, symptoms only last a few months or a year or two and then go away without causing any noticeable damage. Other people may experience periods of worsening symptoms, called flares, and periods in which they feel better, called remissions. However, rheumatoid arthritis is typically a progressive disease, and requires long-term treatment to manage symptoms and slow down the progression of the disease.
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Leflunomide Drug Information

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