When you're given erythropoietin injections the amount of erythropoietin in your body becomes much higher than normal. This is why you may have side effects, even though erythropoietin is a naturally occurring substance. However, these side effects aren't usually severe and they do lessen after erythropoietin treatment ends. Each person’s reaction to treatment is different. Some people have very few side effects while others may experience more. The side effects described here won't affect everyone having erythropoietin treatment.
We've outlined the most common side effects but haven't included those that are rare and therefore unlikely to affect you. If you notice any effects that aren't listed here, discuss them with your doctor or specialist nurse.
Some people have flu-like symptoms, such as feeling sick, joint pains, weakness, dizziness and tiredness. These are more likely to occur at the start of your treatment. Your doctor may prescribe a painkiller, such as paracetamol, to help with these symptoms.
Some people find that erythropoietin causes headaches. Let your doctor or nurse know. They can give you painkillers to relieve this.
High blood pressure
Your doctor will closely monitor your blood pressure while you're receiving erythropoietin. Let your doctor know if you take medication for high blood pressure.
Risk of developing a blood clot
Cancer can increase the risk of developing a blood clot (thrombosis), and erythropoietin may increase this risk further.
A blood clot may cause symptoms such as pain, redness and swelling in a leg, or breathlessness and chest pain. Blood clots can be very serious so it’s important to tell your doctor straight away if you notice any of these symptoms. Most blood clots can be treated with drugs that thin the blood. Your doctor or nurse can give you more information.
Skin irritation at the injection site
Your skin may become red or tender in the area the injection is given. Having the injection in a different place on your body each time may help.
You may develop a skin rash, which may be itchy.
It's important to let your doctor know straight away if you feel unwell or have any severe side effect, even if they're not mentioned above.