Humira’s Side Effects: What to Know

Medically Reviewed By Brittany A. Duke, PharmD, RPh
This drug has boxed warnings about risks of cancer and serious infections. These are serious warnings from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). For details, see the “ Humira: Side effects explained” section below.

Humira: Introduction

Humira is a brand-name prescription drug. It’s a type of drug called a tumor necrosis factor inhibitor, and it contains the active drug adalimumab. Humira comes as a solution that’s given by subcutaneous injection.

Humira is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat the following conditions, which are related to inflammation.

In adults and children ages 2 years and older uveitis
juvenile idiopathic arthritis
In adults and children ages 5 years and older ulcerative colitis
In adults and children ages 6 years and older Crohn’s disease
In adults and children ages 12 years and older hidradenitis suppurativa
In adults plaque psoriasis
psoriatic arthritis
rheumatoid arthritis
ankylosing spondylitis

Similar to other drugs, Humira injections (shots) may cause side effects. Read below for information about possible side effects, including common, mild, and serious ones.

For a general overview of Humira, including details about its uses, see this article.

If you’d like to take Humira, search here to find a healthcare professional who might prescribe it.

Humira: More common side effects

Some of Humira’s side effects may be more common than others. These side effects may last only a few days to weeks. However, some side effects may last longer or become severe or bothersome. Tell your doctor or pharmacist if you have concerns about any side effects with Humira.

In Humira’s clinical studies, these were the most common side effects:

* For more information about this side effect, see “Humira: Side effects explained” below.

Humira: Mild side effects

Humira can cause mild side effects, which are listed below. However, this list doesn’t include all possible mild side effects. To learn more about Humira’s side effects, view the drug’s prescribing information.

Humira’s mild side effects include:

The side effects listed above may last only a few days to weeks. However, some side effects may last longer or become severe or bothersome. Tell your doctor or pharmacist if you have concerns about side effects with Humira.

Note: After the FDA approves a drug, it tracks side effects of the medication. If you develop a side effect while taking Humira and want to tell the FDA about it, visit MedWatch.

* For more information about this side effect, see “Humira: Side effects explained” below.

Humira: Serious side effects

It’s possible to have serious side effects with Humira. Serious side effects are listed below, but this list may not include all possibilities. To learn more about Humira’s side effects, view the drug’s prescribing information.

Call your doctor right away if you have serious side effects with Humira. However, if you think you’re having a medical emergency or have life threatening side effects, call 911 or your local emergency number.

Serious side effects of Humira and their possible symptoms include:

* 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 “Humira: Side effects explained” section below.
† For more information about this side effect, see “Humira: Side effects explained” below.

Humira: Common questions about side effects

Here are some common questions about the drug’s side effects and answers to them. Talk with your doctor if you have other questions about this drug.

Are weight gain and weight loss side effects of Humira?

These weren’t reported as side effects in Humira’s clinical studies.

That said, heart failure is a possible side effect of Humira. And weight gain is sometimes a symptom of heart failure. It’s due to a build-up of fluid in your body that can cause swelling.

Additionally, serious infections are a possible side effect of Humira.* And weight loss can be a symptom of serious infections. An example of a serious infection that may occur with Humira is tuberculosis (TB).

If you have changes in your body weight while taking Humira, let your doctor know. They can advise whether the weight change is due to a side effect of the drug.

* 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 “Humira: Side effects explained” section below.

What side effects should I expect after my first dose of Humira?

Not everyone will experience side effects with Humira. The most common side effect of this drug is injection site reactions, and these may occur with any of your doses.

Possible symptoms at or around Humira injection sites include:

  • discoloration
  • swelling
  • pain
  • bleeding
  • itching
  • rash
  • bruising

Talk with your doctor if you experience side effects after your first dose of Humira or later doses. Your doctor may recommend ways to help ease your symptoms.

Do side effects of Humira pens differ from those of the drug’s other forms?

Whether you use Humira pens or syringes, the drug’s possible side effects are the same.

Both of these injection forms use a needle to deliver the drug into your body. So injection site reactions are possible. (See the question directly above for information on these reactions.)

Other possible side effects of Humira are due to its active ingredient, which is the same in all forms of the medication.

If you’d like to know about the differences of using Humira pens versus other forms, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

Are there long-term side effects of Humira?

Some long-term side effects are possible with Humira. For instance, Humira may increase the risk of certain cancers,* such as leukemia, lymphoma, and non-melanoma skin cancer.

Humira may also increase the risk of some nervous system disorders. These could include multiple sclerosis, optic neuritis (inflammation of the optic nerve), and Guillain-Barré syndrome.

These conditions could be long-term side effects of Humira. This depends on their type and severity and the treatment options available for them.

If you have additional questions about long-lasting side effects of Humira, talk with your doctor.

* 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 “Humira: Side effects explained” section below.

Does Humira cause joint pain or anxiety?

Joint pain and anxiety weren’t reported as side effects in Humira’s clinical studies.

However, Humira may cause an autoimmune problem called lupus-like syndrome. And a possible symptom of this condition is joint pain. Tell your doctor if you have joint pain with Humira. They can advise if Humira may be related to it. Keep in mind, Humira is used to treat a few types of arthritis. And joint pain is a common symptom of arthritis. 

You may have anxiousness about some of the possible side effects of Humira or about giving yourself injections of the medication. However, anxiety itself isn’t a known side effect of this drug. Talk with your doctor if you’re feeling anxious about taking Humira or if you have other concerns about this drug.

Should I expect withdrawal symptoms when my Humira treatment ends?

You shouldn’t expect to have withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking Humira. However, your condition may relapse (get worse) if you stop treatment with the drug.

Be sure to talk with your doctor before you stop taking Humira. They can help you prepare for what might happen after stopping treatment.

Humira: Side effects explained

Here’s detailed information about some of Humira’s side effects.

Risk of cancer

Humira has a boxed warning regarding the risk of cancer. A boxed warning is the strongest warning required by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These warnings alert doctors and patients about drug effects that may be dangerous.

Specifically, some of the cancers that have been reported in people taking Humira include:

In some cases, cancer with Humira may be fatal.

Additionally, a rare, life threatening cancer called hepatosplenic T-cell lymphoma has been reported in young males* who took Humira. They were taking Humira to treat either ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. They were also taking other medications, including azathioprine or 6-mercaptopurine.

Symptoms of cancer vary depending on the type of cancer involved. For examples of possible symptoms that may occur with cancer, view this article.

* Sex and gender exist on spectrums. In this article, use of the term “male” refers to sex assigned at birth.

What to do

Typically, your doctor will not prescribe Humira if you’ve ever had cancer. So, be sure to talk with your doctor about your past medical history. Also, let them know right away about any concerning symptoms you experience with Humira.

Risk of serious infections

Humira has a boxed warning regarding the risk of serious infections. A boxed warning is the strongest warning required by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These warnings alert doctors and patients about drug effects that may be dangerous.

Humira lowers your immune system’s ability to fight off infections. So, you have an increased risk of developing serious infections while taking this drug.

Tuberculosis (TB) and other viral, bacterial, and fungal infections have been reported in people taking Humira. Sometimes these infections have been fatal.

Symptoms of infection will differ based on the type of infection involved. Some general symptoms of infection include fever, chills, body aches, and fatigue.

What to do

Your doctor will test you for TB before you start treatment with Humira. If you have TB, your doctor will likely prescribe treatment for it before you start taking Humira. And your doctor will continue to monitor you for TB and other infections while you’re taking Humira.

Tell your doctor if you have any symptoms of infection while you’re taking this drug. They can recommend treatment if needed.  

Injection site reactions and other skin problems

The most common side effect of Humira is injection site reactions. These include certain symptoms at or around Humira injection sites, such as:

  • discoloration
  • swelling
  • pain
  • bleeding
  • itching
  • rash
  • bruising

Most injection site reactions with Humira in clinical studies were mild.

In addition to injection site reactions, Humira may cause a rash. In some cases, a rash could also occur due to an allergic reaction to the drug. See the “Allergic reaction” section below for details.

What to do

Tell your doctor if you experience any symptoms of an injection site reaction with Humira. They may suggest ways to help ease the reaction.

If you do have these symptoms, avoid injecting doses of Humira into the affected area. To help prevent injection site reactions, rotate your injection sites when injecting each dose of the drug. Talk with your doctor about proper injection techniques and injection sites for the drug.

Let your doctor know if you develop a skin rash or other skin changes with Humira. And be sure to call them right away if you think your rash is due to an allergic reaction.

Headache

Headache was a commonly reported side effect of Humira in clinical studies. Symptoms of headache can include pain in your head and sensitivity to light and sounds.

What to do

Tell your doctor if you develop a headache while taking Humira. They can recommend the best treatment option for you. In some cases, they may recommend taking an over-the-counter pain reliever. Check with your doctor before taking any new medications with Humira.

Allergic reaction

As with most drugs, some people can have an allergic reaction after taking Humira. A more severe allergic reaction is rare but possible.

Possible symptoms of mild and serious allergic reactions are listed in the table below.

Mild allergic reaction symptoms Serious allergic reaction symptoms
• itching trouble breathing
rash • swelling in your throat or mouth
flushing • swelling under your skin, possibly in your hands, feet, lips, or eyelids

If you have an allergic reaction to Humira, call your doctor right away. This is important to do because the reaction could become severe.

However, if you’re having a medical emergency or your symptoms feel life threatening, call 911 or a local emergency number.

Humira: Precautions

Humira has boxed warnings, as well as other precautions for its use. Read below to learn more.

Boxed warnings

This drug has boxed warnings about risks of cancer and serious infections. These are serious warnings from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). For details, see the “Humira: Side effects explained” section above.

Other precautions

Be sure to talk with your doctor about your health history before you take Humira. This drug may not be the right treatment option if you have certain medical conditions or other factors that affect your health.

The conditions and factors to consider include those described below.

Nervous system problems. If you have a nervous system problem, taking Humira may worsen it. Tell your doctor if you have any of these conditions, including multiple sclerosis. Your doctor can recommend if Humira is a safe treatment option for you.

Hepatitis B infection. If you’ve ever had hepatitis B, taking Humira could reactivate the hepatitis B virus that causes hepatitis B. (Reactivation means that a virus already inside your body flares up and causes symptoms.) Your doctor will likely not prescribe Humira if you’ve had hepatitis B in the past.

Allergic reaction. If you’ve had an allergic reaction to Humira or any of its ingredients, your doctor will likely not prescribe Humira. Ask your doctor what other medications may be better options for you. Additionally, if you’re allergic to rubber or latex, your doctor may recommend that you don’t use certain forms of Humira. Talk with your doctor to learn more.

Heart failure. If you have heart failure, it may worsen with Humira treatment. Your doctor may not prescribe Humira if you have heart failure. If they do prescribe Humira, they will monitor you closely during treatment.

Consuming alcohol during Humira treatment

If you drink alcohol, talk with your doctor about whether it’s safe to consume alcohol during Humira treatment. This medication isn’t known to interact with alcohol, but it’s still best to check with your doctor.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding during Humira treatment

Your doctor will likely recommend that you do not take Humira while you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.

If you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning either, talk with your doctor. They can recommend the best treatment plan for you.

Humira: What to discuss with your doctor

Talk with your doctor or pharmacist for more information about Humira. If you have questions about the drug’s side effects, your pharmacist or healthcare professional can help answer them for you.

In addition to discussing Humira with your doctor, you may find the following articles helpful in learning more.

Disclaimer: Healthgrades 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 another 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.

Medical Reviewer: Brittany A. Duke, PharmD, RPh
Last Review Date: 2022 Apr 8
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.