Patients and their health-care providers should carefully review the product manufacturer's information before treatment.
Pharmaceutical company Schering-Plough says "all patients receiving INTRON A [interferon] therapy experienced mild-to-moderate side effects."
- Most people have flu-like symptoms (fever, chills, headache, muscle and joint aches, fast heart rate) early in treatment, but these lessen with continued treatment.
- Later side effects may include: tiredness, hair loss, low blood count (decreases in red and white blood cells and platelets), trouble with thinking, moodiness and depression.
- Depression and worsening of pre-existing psychiatric conditions are common and need to be monitored closely.
- Other side effects include: fatigue, insomnia (sleep problems), diarrhea, nausea, irritability and loss of libido.
Interferon dosage must be reduced in as many as 40 percent of people because of the severity of side effects, and treatment must be stopped in as many as 15 percent. Pregnant women should not be treated with interferon.
Side effects include:
- Anemia (low red blood cell count).
- Birth defects - pregnancy should be avoided during treatment.
- Rash - which often requires discontinuation of the medication.
The majority of patients taking interferon are able to continue to work full time and carry on their normal daily activities.
Fatigue is one of the most common complaints of treatment and is often manifested as feeling exhausted, rather then ''tired.'' Suggestions for help include: regular and consistent exercise, regular meals, good nutrition and plenty of rest. Sleep more at night and take naps during the day; try to schedule regular rest periods each day.
Some herbs and supplements may help with side effects.