Side Effects of Humira: What You Need to Know


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Introduction

If you have certain autoimmune conditions, your doctor may recommend that you take Humira (adalimumab). Knowing the side effects that could occur from taking Humira can help you and your doctor decide if Humira is right for you.

Humira may be used for the following autoimmune conditions:

  • rheumatoid arthritis in adults
  • plaque psoriasis in adults
  • psoriatic arthritis in adults
  • juvenile idiopathic arthritis in certain children
  • ankylosing spondylitis in adults
  • ulcerative colitis in adults and certain children
  • Crohn’s disease in adults and certain children
  • uveitis in adults and certain children
  • hidradenitis suppurativa in adults and certain children

Humira is a biologic drug, which means it’s made from living cells. The drug is given as an injection under your skin. In many cases, if Humira is working for you, you can use the drug long term.

For more information about Humira, including details about its uses, see this in-depth article.

Like other drugs, Humira injections can cause mild or serious side effects. Keep reading to learn more.

What are the more common side effects of Humira?

Below are a few of the more common side effects reported by people who used Humira in studies. These side effects can vary depending on the condition the drug is being used to treat.

More common side effects that have been reported with Humira include:

  • injection-site reactions
  • infections
  • headache
  • rash*
  • decreases in certain types of blood cells

* To learn more about this side effect, see “Side effects explained” below.

What are the mild side effects of Humira?

You may experience mild side effects during your Humira treatment. These side effects can vary depending on the condition the drug is being used to treat.

Examples of mild side effects that have been reported with Humira include:

  • injection-site reactions
  • infections, such as the common cold
  • headache
  • rash*

* To learn more about this side effect, see “Side effects explained” below.

In most cases, these side effects should be temporary. And some may be easily managed, too. But if you have any symptoms that are ongoing or that bother you, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. And don’t stop using Humira unless your doctor tells you to.

Humira may cause mild side effects other than those listed above. See the Humira medication guide.

Note: After the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves a drug, it tracks and reviews side effects of the medication. If you’d like to notify the FDA about a side effect you’ve had with Humira, visit MedWatch.

What are the serious side effects of Humira?

Although serious side effects are not common with Humira, they are possible. Before you start using Humira, you should know the serious side effects to watch for during your treatment.

Serious side effects that have been reported with Humira include:

  • cancer*†
  • serious infections*†
  • heart failure
  • lupus-like syndrome
  • nervous system problems
  • decreases in certain types of blood cells
  • allergic reaction†
  • hepatitis B reactivation (if you already have the hepatitis B virus)
  • liver damage†

If you develop serious side effects while taking Humira, call your doctor right away. If the side effects seem life threatening or if you think you’re having a medical emergency, immediately call 911 or your local emergency number.

* Humira has a boxed warning for this side effect. This is the most serious warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). To learn more, see the “Side effects explained” section below.
† To learn more about this side effect, see “Side effects explained” below.

FAQs about Humira’s side effects

Get answers to some frequently asked questions about Humira’s side effects.

Is there a higher risk for side effects after the first dose of Humira compared with later doses?

Not necessarily. Side effects from Humira may occur at any point throughout your treatment. But you may have a higher risk for an allergic reaction after your first dose of Humira compared with later doses.

If you have any concerns about side effects from Humira, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

Does Humira cause side effects that could affect my skin?

Yes, Humira could cause side effects that affect your skin. Because Humira is given as an injection under your skin, it can cause an injection-site reaction. (This is a reaction in the area where you inject the drug.)

Injection-site reactions may include symptoms such as:

  • redness or discoloration
  • itching
  • bruising
  • swelling or pain

Another side effect of Humira is a rash. For more information, see the “Side effects explained” section below.

If you have any concerns about skin-related side effects from Humira, talk with your doctor. For more information about how often these side effects may have occurred in studies of Humira, see the prescribing information.

Could I experience long-term side effects from Humira?

It’s possible. Some people may experience long-term side effects from Humira.

Examples of long-term side effects that Humira can cause include:

  • cancer*†
  • liver damage†
  • heart failure
  • lupus-like syndrome
  • nervous system problems

* Humira has a boxed warning for this side effect. This is the most serious warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). To learn more, see the “Side effects explained” section below.
† To learn more about this side effect, see “Side effects explained” below.

For more information about how often long-term side effects may occur with Humira, see the prescribing information. If you have any concerns about long-term side effects, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

Does Humira cause eye-related side effects?

It’s possible. Although Humira is not known to specifically cause eye-related side effects, it may cause other side effects that can affect your eyes. For example, Humira can cause nervous system problems. Symptoms of some nervous system problems may include changes in your vision.

Humira can also cause liver damage. One symptom of liver damage is jaundice, which can cause the whites of your eyes to become yellow.

Some people may have an allergic reaction to Humira. In certain cases, allergic reactions may cause your eyes to swell.

If you notice any vision changes or other changes in your eyes (such as swelling or yellowing) while using Humira, call your doctor right away.

Side effects explained

Learn more about some of the side effects Humira may cause.

Serious infections

Humira has a boxed warning for the risk of serious infection while using the drug. A boxed warning is the most serious warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Serious infections that could occur include pneumonia, tuberculosis (TB), or fungal infections.

Although serious infections are possible, they’re not a common side effect of Humira.

Symptoms of a serious infection may include:

  • trouble breathing
  • dizziness
  • fever

What might help

Your doctor will test you for TB before you start using Humira. If you do have TB or any other infections, such as hepatitis B, your doctor may need to treat the infection before you start using Humira.

You may have a higher risk for a serious infection if you use Humira along with another medication called Kineret (anakinra). Your doctor may monitor you more closely for symptoms of infection during your treatment. They may also recommend switching one of your medications so that you’re not using these drugs together.

If you develop symptoms of a serious infection, see your doctor right away. Serious infections can be life threatening, so it’s important that they’re treated as soon as possible.

Cancer

Humira has a boxed warning for the risk of cancer during treatment. A boxed warning is the most serious warning from the FDA.

Cancer is a rare but serious side effect that may occur with Humira. Taking Humira may raise your risk for skin cancer and for blood cancers such as leukemia or lymphoma.

Symptoms of cancer to watch for include:

  • weight loss
  • a sore that doesn’t heal
  • a lump under your skin
  • fatigue (lack of energy)

What might help

It’s important to watch for any symptoms of cancer during your treatment with Humira. If you do notice any symptoms, tell your doctor right away. Your doctor may also do certain blood tests to check for cancer.

If you have any concerns about cancer during your Humira treatment, talk with your doctor.

Rash

Rash is a common side effect of Humira. Some people using Humira develop a rash as a side effect of the medication. Others may experience redness or deepening of skin color, or swelling at the injection site after a dose of Humira.

A rash could also be a symptom of a more serious side effect of Humira. For example, some people using Humira can develop a rash if they have an allergic reaction to the drug. You can also develop a rash from lupus-like syndrome, which is a possible side effect of Humira.

What might help

If you notice a rash during your Humira treatment, talk with your doctor. They may be able to recommend creams or medications to relieve your rash symptoms. In addition, they can help determine if the rash is serious or not.

Liver damage

Liver damage is a rare but serious side effect that can occur with Humira. Symptoms of liver damage may include:

  • jaundice (yellowing of the skin or the whites of your eyes)
  • abdominal (belly) pain
  • fatigue

What might help

Before using Humira, talk with your doctor about any liver problems you currently have or have had in the past. Your doctor will likely monitor your liver function through blood tests during your treatment.

If you develop any symptoms of liver damage during your treatment with Humira, tell your doctor right away. Liver damage can be very serious and even life threatening.

If you have questions or concerns about liver damage during your Humira treatment, talk with your doctor.

Allergic reaction

Like most drugs, Humira can cause an allergic reaction in some people.

Symptoms can be mild or serious and can include:

  • skin rash
  • itchiness
  • flushing (temporary warmth, redness, or deepening of skin color)
  • swelling under your skin, typically in your eyelids, lips, hands, or feet
  • swelling of your mouth, tongue, or throat, which can make it hard to breathe

What might help

If you have mild symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as a mild rash, call your doctor right away. They may suggest an over-the-counter oral antihistamine, such as Benadryl (diphenhydramine), or a topical product, such as hydrocortisone cream, to manage your symptoms.

If your doctor confirms you had a mild allergic reaction to Humira, they’ll decide if you should continue using it.

If you have symptoms of a severe allergic reaction, such as swelling or trouble breathing, call 911 or your local emergency number right away. These symptoms could be life threatening and require immediate medical care.

If your doctor confirms you had a serious allergic reaction to Humira, they may have you switch to a different treatment.

Keeping track of side effects

During your Humira treatment, consider keeping notes on any side effects you’re having. Then, you can share this information with your doctor. This is especially helpful to do when you first start taking new drugs or using a combination of treatments.

Your side effect notes can include things like:

  • what dose of drug you were taking when you had the side effect
  • how soon after starting that dose you had the side effect
  • what your symptoms were from the side effect
  • how it affected your daily activities
  • what other medications you were also taking
  • any other information you feel is important

Keeping notes and sharing them with your doctor will help your doctor learn more about how the drug affects you. And your doctor can use this information to adjust your treatment plan if needed.

Warnings for Humira

Humira comes with several warnings.

Boxed warnings

Humira has boxed warnings for serious infections and cancer. Boxed warnings are the most serious warnings from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

  • Serious infections. Humira can cause serious infections, which may be life threatening. If you have any infections before starting Humira, be sure to tell your doctor. They’ll likely recommend treating your infection so it doesn’t become serious. Your doctor will also test you for tuberculosis (TB) before starting Humira. If you have TB, it will be treated before you start using Humira.
  • Cancer. Humira may raise your risk for certain types of cancer, such as skin cancer or blood cancer (including leukemia or lymphoma). If you have cancer or have had it in the past, talk with your doctor before using Humira. They’ll help you choose the most appropriate drug and may monitor you more closely throughout your treatment.

To learn more, see the “Side effects explained” section above.

Other warnings

Humira may not be right for you if you have certain medical conditions or other factors that affect your health. Talk with your doctor about your health history before you take Humira. The list below includes factors to consider.

Hepatitis B. If you have hepatitis B or have had it in the past, using Humira may cause reactivation of the virus. Be sure to tell your doctor if you’ve ever had hepatitis B. They’ll likely monitor you more closely throughout your Humira treatment to make sure your hepatitis B symptoms don’t return.

Allergic reaction. If you’ve had an allergic reaction to Humira or any of its ingredients, you should not use Humira. Humira’s needle cover may contain natural rubber or latex. If you have allergies to rubber or latex, talk with your doctor before using Humira. They may recommend a different treatment that’s safer for you to use.

Nervous system problems. Before using Humira, tell your doctor if you have certain nervous system problems or have had them in the past. Examples of these conditions include multiple sclerosis and Guillain-Barré syndrome. Humira may cause nerve conditions. If you already have one of these conditions, Humira may make it worse. Your doctor may monitor you more closely during your Humira treatment, or they may recommend a different medication for your condition.

Heart failure. Humira may cause heart failure. If you have heart failure or have had it in the past, Humira could make your condition worse. If you have heart failure, talk with your doctor before using Humira. Your doctor may monitor your heart more closely to make sure the drug isn’t causing your heart failure to worsen.

Psoriasis. Humira may cause symptoms of psoriasis to worsen. If you have psoriasis or have had it in the past, talk with your doctor before using Humira. They may monitor your skin more closely to check that your symptoms don’t get worse during your Humira treatment.

Liver problems. Humira may cause you to develop liver problems. If you have liver problems or have had them in the past, tell your doctor before using Humira. Your doctor may monitor your liver function through blood tests to make sure your liver problems aren’t getting worse.

Alcohol use and Humira

Humira isn’t known to interact with alcohol. But both alcohol and Humira may affect your liver. This means that drinking alcohol during your Humira treatment may raise your risk for liver damage.

Alcohol may also worsen the symptoms of your condition. For example, your symptoms of Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis may become worse if you drink alcohol.

If you drink alcohol, talk with your doctor about how much may be safe for you to drink during your Humira treatment.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding while using Humira

It’s not known if Humira is safe to use during pregnancy.

If you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant, talk with your doctor before using Humira. They may recommend a different treatment option for you.

Breastfeeding is not recommended during treatment with Humira. This is because Humira passes into breastmilk. It’s not known at this time if exposure to Humira in a child may cause harm.

If you’re currently breastfeeding or planning to breastfeed, talk with your doctor before using Humira. They may recommend a different treatment option for your condition.

What to ask your doctor

Some people may experience side effects while using Humira. In most cases, side effects will be mild and may improve over time. But in some cases, side effects can be serious.

If you have any questions about side effects that can occur with Humira, talk with your doctor. Here are some questions that you may want to ask:

  • Can I still take Humira if I’ve had cancer in the past?
  • Is it dangerous if I become pregnant during my Humira treatment?
  • How often should I have regular appointments so that any side effects can be prevented or managed?
  • If I decide I want to stop my Humira treatment, will I experience withdrawal symptoms?
  • Does my risk for side effects increase if I’m taking other medications or have certain medical conditions?

You can subscribe to the Healthline newsletters for plaque psoriasis or rheumatoid arthritis if you use Humira for either of these conditions.

Ask a pharmacist

Disclaimer: Healthline has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up to date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or other healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.


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