Coping with side effects

These tips for reducing side effects have been compiled by MPN Specialist Nurses.

If you take interferon

If you take interferon and suffer from fatigue it can sometimes help to:

  • Take more injections of a lower dose (e.g. 3 × 3 MU vs 2 × 4.5 MU)
  • Change the time of your injection
  • Switch brands of interferon (from Roferon® to Intron® and vice versa)

If you experience sleepiness with medication

If you feel tired or sleepy when taking hydoxycarbamide, try taking the tablets before you go to bed – they do not need to be divided during the day.

If you experience palpitations

If you suffer palpitations after taking anagrelide (Xagrid):

  • Divide the doses up through the day
  • Avoid caffeine (coffee, tea, diet coke)
  • Avoid exercise for about an hour after taking your medication

If your skin is dry

As a first step, have a talk with your GP and haematologist and ask them to verify that there aren’t any other causes for this problem.

Thyroid disease can cause dry skin, and thyroid problems may relate directly to interferon if you take that medication. Iron deficiency can also cause dry skin.

Check that you have not changed the soap or detergent that you use. Some soaps cause irritation.

Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water. Tea and coffee, caffeinated sodas and alcoholic drinks can be dehydrating, so you may need to reduce consumption and/or drink more water.

Use an emollient soap or a soap substitute. Find a good moisturizer and use it often.

If your skin is itchy rather than just dry, check our section on itchy skin. This is a common problem for people with polycythaemia vera (PV).

If you have trouble swallowing

If you find hydroxycarbamide tablets difficult to swallow please talk with your nurse or pharmacist. Some people find it helpful to sprinkle the contents in water. Hydroxycarbamide is dangerous for people for whom it was not prescribed (including children, other adults and pets). The powder must be handled with extreme care. Be sure to drink all the water and wash the glass carefully. Wipe up any spills using kitchen roll (paper towel) and dispose of carefully.

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