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Dexamethasone (Generic Name)

UPMC Content 2

About This Drug

Dexamethasone is used to treat cancer. This drug can be given in the vein (IV), by mouth, or as an eye drop.

Possible Side Effects (More Common)

  • Increased appetite (increased hunger) and weight gain
  • Skin and tissue irritation may involve pain, redness, or swelling at the site of the IV injection.
  • Headache
  • Increase growth of facial hair
  • Muscle weakness that interferes with your daily activities
  • Increase in sweating
  • Aggravation of stomach ulcers; increase in stomach pain or burning
  • Swelling of hands, feet, face, or trunk
  • Changes in mood, which may include depression or a feeling of extreme well-being
  • High blood sugar. Your blood glucose level may be checked as needed.
  • Impaired or slower wound healing
  • Increased risk of infection
  • High blood pressure. Your doctor will check your blood pressure as needed.
  • Blurred vision (especially if using the eye drops)
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Feeling restless, nervous, or irritable
  • Trouble sleeping, nightmares

Possible Side Effects (Less Common)

  • Low platelet count. This can raise your risk of bleeding. You may also have bruising.
  • Nausea and throwing up (vomiting)
  • Loose bowel movements (diarrhea)
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Blood clots. A blood clot in your leg may cause your leg to swell, appear red or warm, and/or cause pain. A blood clot in your lungs may cause trouble breathing, and/or chest pain.
  • Urinating more often or in greater amounts
  • Seizures
  • Changes in liver enzymes. Your doctor will check your liver function as needed.
  • Signs of liver problems: dark urine, pale bowel movements, bad stomach pain, feeling very tired or weak, unusual itching, or yellowing of the eyes or skin.

Reproduction Concerns

  • Pregnancy warning: It is not known if this drug may harm an unborn child. For this reason, be sure to talk with your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant while getting this drug.
  • Breast feeding warning: It is not known if this drug passes into breast milk. For this reason, women should talk to their doctor about the risks and benefits of breast feeding during treatment because this drug may enter the breast milk and badly harm a breast feeding baby.


Sexual problems and reproduction concerns may happen. In both men and women, this drug may affect your ability to have children. This cannot be determined before your therapy. Talk with your doctor or nurse if you plan to have children. Ask for information on sperm or egg banking.

In men, this drug may interfere with your ability to make sperm, but it should not change your ability to have sexual relations.

In women, menstrual bleeding may become irregular or stop while you are getting this drug. Do not assume that you cannot become pregnant if you do not have a menstrual period.

Women may go through signs of menopause (change of life) like vaginal dryness or itching. Vaginal lubricants can be used to lessen vaginal dryness, itching, and pain during sexual relations.

Genetic counseling is available for you to talk about the effects of this drug therapy on future pregnancies. Also, a genetic counselor can look at the possible risk of problems in the unborn baby due to this medicine if an exposure happens during pregnancy.

Treating Side Effects

  • Drink 6-8 cups of fluids every day unless your doctor has told you to limit your fluid intake due to some other health problem. A cup is 8 ounces of fluid. If you throw up or have loose bowel movements, you should drink more fluids so that you do not become dehydrated (lack water in the body from losing too much fluid).
  • Ask your doctor or nurse about medicine that is available to stop or lessen nausea, throwing up, loose bowel movements, headache, stomach pain or burning.
  • Do not put anything on a rash unless your doctor or nurse says you may. Keep the area around the rash clean and dry. Ask your doctor for medicine if your rash bothers you.
  • While getting this medicine in your vein (IV infusion), tell your nurse right away if you have pain, redness, or swelling at the site of the IV infusion.
  • If you are dizzy, get up slowly after sitting or lying down.
  • Talk with your doctor or nurse if you feel you need help with changes in your moods.
  • Wear dark sun glasses when in the sun or bright lights.

Food and Drug Interactions

There are no known interactions of dexamethasone with food. This drug may interact with other medicines. Tell your doctor and pharmacist about all the medicines and dietary supplements (vitamins, minerals, herbs and others) that you are taking at this time. The safety and use of dietary supplements and alternative diets are often not known. Using these might affect your cancer or interfere with your treatment. Until more is known, you should not use dietary supplements or alternative diets without your cancer doctor's advice.

Important Information (Oral Medicine Instructions)

Take this medicine with or without food. If you have stomach irritation or pain, take it with food.

If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you remember. Do not take it if it is close to your next dose. Just take the dose at your normal time. Do not take more than 1 dose at a time.

If you are using the eye drop form of this medicine, be sure to remove contact lenses and wash your hands before putting the drops in your eyes.

Allergic Reactions

Serious allergic reactions including anaphylaxis are rare. While you are getting this drug in your vein (IV), tell your nurse right away if you have any of these symptoms of an allergic reaction:

  • Trouble catching your breath
  • Feeling like your tongue or throat are swelling
  • Feeling your heart beat quickly or in a not normal way (palpitations)
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Flushing, itching, rash, and/or hives

When to Call the Doctor

Call your doctor or nurse right away if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Temperature of 100.5 F (38 C) or above
  • Chills
  • Wheezing or trouble breathing
  • Rash or itching
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Feeling that your heart is beating in a fast or not normal way (palpitations)
  • Bleeding or bruising that is not usual
  • Nausea that stops you from eating or drinking
  • Loose bowel movements (diarrhea) more than 4 times a day or loose bowel movements with weakness or feeling lightheaded.
  • Throwing up more than three times in one day
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Feeling confused, agitated, or if you see, hear, or feel things that are not there (hallucinations)
  • Seizures
  • Throwing up blood, or fluid that looks like coffee grounds
  • Blood in your bowel movements

Call your doctor or nurse as soon as possible if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Extreme weakness that interferes with normal activities
  • Nausea not relieved by prescribed medicines
  • Pain in arms or legs not relieved by prescribed medicine
  • Headache not relieved by prescribed medicine
  • Yellowing of skin or eyes
  • Unusual thirst or passing urine often
  • Blurred vision or other changes in eyesight
  • Stomach or abdominal pain or burning
  • Rash that is not relieved by prescribed medicines
  • Swelling of legs, ankles or feet
  • Heartburn or indigestion
  • Weight gain of five pounds in one week (fluid retention)

Revised April 2014