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Male Side Effects of Lupron for Prostate Cancer

by
author image Matthew Fox, MD
Dr. Matthew Fox graduated from the University of California with a Bachelor of Arts in molecular, cell and developmental biology and received a M.D. from the University of Virginia. He is a pathologist and has experience in internal medicine and cancer research.
Male Side Effects of Lupron for Prostate Cancer
The drug leuprolide suppresses factors released by the brain that normally signal the gonads to make sex hormones. Photo Credit urfinguss/iStock/Getty Images

Overview

Lupron is the brand name for the drug leuprolide. Leuprolide is used in children with early puberty to delay the onset of puberty. It is used in women to treat endometriosis and fibrroids; both are problems with the tissues of the uterus. In men, the drug is used to treat prostate cancer. It acts on the brain to stop the gonads from producing sex hormones. In affect, the drug is a form of medical castration. Therefore, the main side effects occur from deprivation of androgens such as testosterone, the male sex hormones.

Allergic Reactions

Allergic reactions to leupride are rare. They range in scope from mild reactions such as reddening itching or and hives at the site of injection to whole body skin involvement to anaphalyctic shock. Anaphylactic shock occurs when the allergen causes white blood cells of the body's immune system to release large amounts of histamine, dropping the blood pressure dangerously low. (See Reference 1)

Endocrine and Sexual Side Effects

Leuprolide primary effect is to change levels of hormones in the body to starve prostate cancer of growth factors. The absence of sex hormones also cause other unwanted side effects. Some of these side effects include loss of libido, impotence, hot flashes, weight gain, fatigue, growth of breast tissue, increased fat and cholesterol in the blood and bone loss. (See Reference 1 and 2)

Whole-Body Side Effects

According to prescribing information published by the pharmaceutical company Abbot, side effects in the body as a whole included a general loss of strength in 12 percent of patients. Twelve percent of patients also experienced a flu-like syndrome. Thirty-three percent of patients felt general pain in the body, and 10 percent experienced headaches. (See Reference 3)

Heart Effects

According to Drugs.com, cardiovascular side effects include electrical changes to the heart, decreased oxygen delivery or use by the heart, irregular rhythms, high and low blood pressure, swelling in the arms and legs due to the heart not pumping as efficiently, murmurs, inflammation in the veins, blood clots, chest pain, fluid or blood clots in the lungs and heart attacks. (See Reference 1)

Gastrointestinal Side Effects

Gastrointestinal side effects include anorexia, weight loss and weight gain, flatulence constipation, nausea and vomiting. According to the prescribing information from Abbot, about 10 percent of patients experience GI problems. (See Reference 1 and 3)

Nervous and Psychiatric System

Nervous system side effects include headache, dizziness, lethargy, blurred vision, tingling and numbness or pain in the arms and legs, spinal fracture, convulsions and seizures, and paralysis. Psychiatric side effects encompass insomnia, short-term memory loss, depression, anxiety and emotional mood swings and decreased libido. (See Reference 1)

Skin and Musculoskeletal System

Side effects in the skin have included rash, dry skin, itching, bruising, sensitivity to the sun, sweating, night sweats and changes in pigmentations. (See Reference 1)

During the initial stages, or about first two weeks of therapy, bone pain may increase. Over time, low levels of sex hormones other than the male androgens, such as the hormone estrogen, may result in some bone loss.

Side effects in the muscles and bones have included increased bone pain, joint and muscle aches, loss of muscle, pain in the limbs, and decreased bone density. (See Reference 1)

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