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What Are the Most Common Rituximab Side Effects?

By Meshell Powell
Updated May 17, 2024
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Rituximab side effects are usually mild and do not present any significant health concerns, although any bothersome symptoms should be reported to a doctor for further medical evaluation. The most frequently reported rituximab side effects include skin irritation at the injection site, diarrhea, and nausea. More serious possible side effects of this medication may include irregular heartbeat, difficulty breathing, or a severe allergic reaction. Any questions or concerns about potential rituximab side effects should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional.

Discomfort or irritation at the site of the injection is one of the most common rituximab side effects. This symptom normally goes away within a few hours of treatment. Severe pain, redness, or swelling should be reported to the medical staff so that serious complications can be ruled out. Muscle or joint pain or an overall feeling of weakness may occur after treatment, but these symptoms should be reported to a doctor if they last longer than 24 hours.

Gastrointestinal disturbances may occur as a result of taking rituximab. Mild to moderate nausea is common and can often be treated with over-the-counter or prescription medications. Indigestion, abdominal discomfort, or diarrhea are potential rituximab side effects. Intense abdominal pain, stomach cramps, or persistent vomiting or diarrhea may indicate serious complications and should be reported to a doctor right away. These symptoms may suggest that the dosage needs to be changed, although the doctor may order a variety of medical tests to make sure there is no damage involving the digestive system.

Serious rituximab side effects may include psychological disturbances such as disorientation, confusion, or personality changes. Changes in the color or volume of the urine may indicate problems involving the kidneys. Sudden swelling of the arms or legs, especially if accompanied by severe muscle or joint pain, should be reported to a doctor right away. Any loss of consciousness, even if only for a moment, should be treated as a medical emergency.

A type of severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis is among the possible rituximab side effects. A rash or hives may develop over any area of the body and usually causes severe itching. The face, lips, or tongue may begin to swell and cause breathing to become painful or difficult. The loss of breathing capacity can deprive the brain and other organs of much needed oxygen, often proving fatal without immediate emergency care. Brain death can occur within a matter of moments when adequate oxygen is not available.

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