Using Cyclophosphamide to Treat Lupus

Learn about Cyclophosphamide, its precautions and how to take it when treating Lupus.

Cyclophosphamide is an immunosuppressant medication used for treating Cancer, Nephrotic Syndrome (kidney disease), and conditions associated with inflammation, such as Lupus.

Cyclophosphamide comes in various forms including tablet, capsule, powder for solution, and liquid solution. It is an alkylating agent. Alkylating agents target the cells by damaging their DNA. The agents are most active during the cells’ resting phase.

Know these facts before taking Cyclophosphamide

  • Make sure you advise your doctor of all medications you are taking or planning to take prior to starting Cyclophosphamide. Include all over the counter medications, aspirin, vitamins and herbal remedies.
  • Cyclophosphamide may harm an unborn baby. Your doctor will do a pregnancy test prior to taking these medications.
  • Cyclophosphamide may cause bone marrow suppression, leading to low white and red blood cells and platelets. Your doctor may check your blood counts before starting and periodically while taking this medication.
  • Your doctor may also do tests to assess your kidney and liver prior to starting this medication and periodically after.
  • This medication may affect fertility and the ability for men to father a child. This condition may or may not return to normal after drug is stopped. Talk to your doctor about this before starting treatment.
  • Menstrual periods may stop while taking this medication and may not return to normal. Talk to your doctor about this before starting Cyclophosphamide.

Some things to know while taking Cyclophosphamide  

  • Always wear gloves while handling Cyclophosphamide. If you touch it or the medication gets in your eyes, immediately wash your hands and/or eyes.
  • Upset stomach, nausea and vomiting are common side effects when taking higher doses. Talk to your doctor regarding taking Cyclophosphamide with food in smaller doses throughout the day.
  • While being treated with Cyclophosphamide, do not have any immunizations without approval from your doctor. You can easily contract an infection from the vaccine, because Cyclophosphamide lowers the body’s resistance by suppressing immunity.
  • Bladder irritation, and less commonly bleeding, can occur with Cyclophosphamide. Take it first thing in the morning and drink extra fluids throughout the day to reduce the risk of bladder problems. It is important to empty your bladder frequently. Check with your doctor immediately if you experience blood in the urine or pain when urinating.
  • There may be increased risk of bleeding as this medication may reduce the number of platelets for proper blood clotting. Be careful when using a regular toothbrush, dental floss or toothpick. Check with your doctor before having any dental work. Be careful not to cut yourself when using sharp objects. Avoid contact sports and other situations in which you could get bruised or injured. Check with your doctor immediately if you have unusual bleeding or bruising, black, tarry stools, blood in the urine or stools, or pinpoint red spots on your skin.
  • Because Cyclophosphamide can cause suppression of your immunity, you are more prone to infections. Wash your hands often and stay away from people who are ill. Check with your doctor if you experience fever, chills, flu-like signs, bad sore throat, ear or sinus pain, mouth sores, cough, excess phlegm or change in the color of phlegm, pain when passing urine, or a wound that will not heal.
  • You must use birth control while taking this medication and for a period after the last dose due to its harmful effects on an unborn baby.
  • Do not breastfeed while taking this medication.
  • Cyclophosphamide may affect the lungs and sometimes can be deadly. Call your doctor immediately if you experience a new or worsening cough, fever or shortness of breath.
  • Cyclophosphamide may lower your sodium level, causing changes in balance, weakness, headache, trouble focusing, memory problems, feeling confused and seizures. If you experience any of these symptoms, call your doctor immediately.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol or keep it to minimum. Though rare, Cyclophosphamide can affect the liver and cause serious problems. Check with your doctor immediately if you experience weakness, loss of appetite, dark urine, yellow eyes and skin, upset stomach, stomach pain or light-colored stools.

Cyclophosphamide is an immune suppressing medication which can affect even normal cells. Many people do not have side effects or minimal side effects with Cyclophosphamide. It is important to talk to your healthcare team regarding its benefits, side effects and ways to prevent or manage the side effects. Make sure you keep all appointments with your doctor. They will check periodically to see if this medication is working for you.

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