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Side effects

Interferon and ribavirin are very strong drugs and both have potential side effects. Not everyone experiences these side effects, but it is rare for someone to have none at all. You should expect to get at least a few, particularly at the beginning. The list below sets them out and rates them as common, less common, and rare.

The list is practically the same for interferon (pegylated or standard) with or without ribavirin, since it is interferon that is the main cause. The exception to this is anaemia, which is a side effect of ribavirin. Because anaemia lowers the amount of oxygen carried around the body, particularly to the muscles, it tends to increase the fatigue that interferon causes.

Side effects that may require dose reduction or an end to treatment:

Anaemia (lowered levels of haemoglobin)

common

Neutropenia (lowered levels of neutrophils, which are part of the immune system)

common

Thrombocytopenia (lowered levels of platelets, which help blood to clot)

common

Diabetes

Less common

Other side effects

Flu-like symptoms, including

Fatigue

common

Headaches

common

Fever (in the 48 hours following an interferon injection)

common

Shaking

less common

Muscular and joint aches

common

Dizziness

less common

Sight problems, including

Retinal problems

rare

Blurred vision

less common

Thyroid disease

rare

Digestion/stomach symptoms, including

Nausea

common

Decreased appetite

common

Diarrhoea

rare

Vomiting

rare

Mental symptoms, including

Depression

common

Insomnia

common

Irritability/intolerance

common

Concentration difficulties

common

Respiratory symptoms, including

Coughing

less common

Difficulty breathing

rare

Skin problems, including

Hair loss

common

Pruritis (itching)

common

Rash

less common

Dry skin

less common