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Hydroxyurea Side Effects

hydroxyurea side effects

What Is Hydroxyurea (Hydrea)?

Hydroxyurea is a prescription drug sold under the brand name Hydrea.

It's used to treat psoriasis, chronic myelogenous leukemia (a cancer of the white blood cells), ovarian cancer, melanoma (a form of skin cancer), and certain head and neck cancers.

The medicine also helps people with sickle cell anemia (an inherited blood disorder) by reducing the frequency of painful sickle cell crisis episodes and the need for blood transfusions.

Additionally, hydroxyurea is sometimes used to treat polycythemia vera (a disorder of the bone marrow) by reducing the red blood cell mass.

Pregnancy and Hydroxyurea

Hydroxyurea can harm an unborn baby. Don't become pregnant while taking this medicine.

Both men and women should use an effective form of birth control while taking hydroxyurea.

The drug may also affect a woman's ability to become pregnant and a man's ability to father a child. Talk to your doctor if this is a concern.

Since hydroxyurea can be absorbed through the skin and lungs, pregnant women, and those who may become pregnant, shouldn't handle the drug or breathe in the dust from the capsules.

How does this medication work? What will it do for me?

Hydroxyurea belongs to the group of cancer-fighting medications known as antineoplastics, and specifically to the group of antineoplastics known as antimetabolites. Hydroxyurea fights cancer by preventing the growth of cancer cells, which eventually results in their destruction. It is usually used to treat certain types of cancers of the skin on the head and neck (excluding the lip) known as squamous cell carcinomas.

Side Effects

  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Constipation
  • Weight gain
  • Sores in the mouth or throat
  • Pale skin
  • Rash
  • Mild dizziness
  • Headache
  • Hair loss
  • Darkening of the skin or nails

Hydroxyurea Interactions

Tell your doctor about all prescription, non-prescription, illegal, recreational, herbal, nutritional, or dietary drugs you're taking, especially:

Actimmune, Avonex, Betaseron, Intron A, Infergen, and others (interferon)

Anturane (sulfinpyrazone)

Certain medications for HIV/AIDS, such as Crixivan (indinavir), Videx (didanosine), or Zerit (stavudine)

Medications that suppress the immune system, such as cyclosporine (Neoral and Sandimmune), Imuran (azathioprine), Prograf (tacrolimus), Rheumatrex (methotrexate), or Rapamune (sirolimus)


Hydroxyurea comes as a capsule to take by mouth. Your dose will be based on your weight, medical condition, and response to treatment.

The medicine is usually taken once a day.

When hydroxyurea is used to treat certain types of cancer, it's sometimes taken once every three days.

Try to take the drug around the same time each day.

Don't crush, chew, or split the capsules. Swallow them whole.


Symptoms of a hydroxyurea overdose may include:

Pain, redness, swelling, or scaling on the hands and feet

Sores in the mouth and throat

Darkening of the skin

Missed Dose of Hydroxyurea

If you miss a dose of hydroxyurea, take it as soon as you remember.

But skip the missed dose if it's almost time for your next scheduled dose.

Don't take extra medicine to make up for a missed dose.


Constipation is easier to sort out if you treat it early. Drink plenty of fluids and eat as much fresh fruit and vegetables as you can. Try to take gentle exercise, such as walking.

Tell your doctor or nurse if you are constipated for more than 3 days. They can prescribe a laxative.

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