Zytiga (abiraterone) is a brand-name drug that’s prescribed to treat certain types of prostate cancer in adults. As with other drugs, Zytiga can cause side effects, such as fatigue, joint pain, and nausea.
Zytiga can cause certain side effects, some of which are more common than others. These side effects may be temporary, lasting a few days to weeks. However, if the side effects last longer than that, bother you, or become severe, be sure to talk with your doctor or pharmacist.
These are just a few of the more common side effects reported by people who took Zytiga in clinical trials:
Mild side effects can occur with Zytiga use. This list doesn’t include all possible mild side effects of the drug. For more information, you can refer to Zytiga’s prescribing information.
Mild side effects that have been reported with Zytiga include:
- joint pain
- edema (swelling from fluid buildup in your body)
- hot flashes
- upper respiratory infection, such as the common cold
- mild allergic reaction*
These side effects may be temporary, lasting a few days to weeks. However, if the side effects last longer than that, bother you, or become severe, be sure to talk with your doctor or pharmacist.
Note: After the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves a drug, it tracks and reviews side effects of the medication. If you develop a side effect while taking Zytiga and want to tell the FDA about it, visit MedWatch.
* An allergic reaction is possible after taking Zytiga. However, it’s not clear whether this side effect occurred in clinical trials. To learn more, see the “Side effect specifics” section below.
Zytiga may cause serious side effects. The list below may not include all possible serious side effects of the drug. For more information, you can refer to Zytiga’s prescribing information.
If you develop serious side effects while taking Zytiga, call your doctor right away. If the side effects seem life threatening or you think you’re having a medical emergency, immediately call 911 or your local emergency number.
Serious side effects that have been reported and their symptoms include:
- Heart problems, such as an irregular heartbeat. Symptoms can include:
- shortness of breath
- chest pain
- Anemia (low red blood cell levels). Symptoms can include:
- fast heartbeat
- shortness of breath
- pale-looking skin
- High blood sugar. Symptoms can include:
- excessive thirst
- frequent urination
- Low potassium levels. Symptoms can include:
- muscle weakness or twitching
- loss of appetite
- excessive thirst
- Adrenal insufficiency (when your adrenal glands don’t make enough of certain hormones, such as cortisol). Symptoms can include:
- weight loss
- muscle weakness
- Urinary tract infection (UTI). Symptoms can include:
- frequent urination
- burning sensation when urinating
- blood in urine
- Lipid disorders, such as high cholesterol or high triglyceride levels.
- High blood pressure.*
- Liver damage.*
- Severe allergic reaction.†
* For more information about this side effect, see “Side effect specifics” below.
† An allergic reaction is possible after taking Zytiga. However, it’s not clear whether this side effect occurred in clinical trials. To learn more, see the “Side effect specifics” section below.
Zytiga may cause several side effects. Here are some frequently asked questions about the drug’s side effects and their answers.
Can Zytiga cause long-term side effects?
Yes, it’s possible for Zytiga to cause long-term side effects. Certain side effects can start at any time during treatment or continue even after you’ve stopped taking the drug.
Liver damage is a possible side effect of Zytiga. If this side effect occurs, it typically appears within the first 3 months of taking the drug. However, possible complications of this side effect may require long-term treatment. For more information about this side effect, see the “Side effect specifics” section below.
Zytiga can also cause serious side effects, such as high blood pressure, low blood potassium levels, or irregular heartbeat. These can be life threatening, and it’s possible that they may cause long-term complications. To decrease the risk of these side effects, your doctor will prescribe prednisone for you to take in combination with Zytiga.
If you have questions about possible long-term side effects with Zytiga, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.
How long do side effects of Zytiga typically last?
It depends. Some side effects of Zytiga, such as hot flashes, may last a few days to weeks. Typically, these side effects are expected to go away as your body adjusts to the drug.
However, certain side effects may require treatment before they improve. These include high blood pressure and UTI. Your doctor can recommend ways to manage some of these side effects.
If you experience side effects that are bothersome or severe, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.
Learn more about some of the side effects that Zytiga may cause. To find out how often side effects occurred in clinical trials, see the prescribing information for Zytiga.
High blood pressure
High blood pressure doesn’t typically cause symptoms. However, very high blood pressure may cause symptoms such as:
- blurry vision
What you can do
Before you start taking Zytiga, your doctor will check your blood pressure. If your blood pressure is high, they will likely want to treat it before prescribing Zytiga. During treatment with this drug, your doctor will continue to monitor your blood pressure. In addition, they can show you how to monitor your blood pressure at home.
Talk with your doctor before taking Zytiga if you have high blood pressure or a history of heart problems. If you notice any symptoms of high blood pressure, tell your doctor right away.
If you have a condition that affects your liver function, you may have a higher risk of liver damage or liver failure.
In some cases, liver damage may not have any symptoms. However, it’s possible for it to cause symptoms such as:
What you can do
Before you start treatment with Zytiga, your doctor will order a liver function test. They’ll also monitor your liver function throughout treatment, especially in the first 3 months. If you have reduced liver function before you start taking Zytiga, your doctor will likely start you on a lower dose.
Tell your doctor right away if you experience any symptoms of a liver problem. If your doctor finds that you have liver damage, they may lower your dose or advise you to stop taking Zytiga.
Symptoms can be mild or serious and can include:
- skin rash
- swelling under your skin, typically in your eyelids, lips, hands, or feet
- swelling of your mouth, tongue, or throat, which can make it hard to breathe
What you can do
For mild symptoms of an allergic reaction, call your doctor right away. They may recommend ways to ease your symptoms and determine whether you should keep taking Zytiga. However, if your symptoms are serious and you think you’re having a medical emergency, immediately call 911 or your local emergency number.
This drug comes with several precautions. Below is important information you should consider before taking Zytiga.
Be sure to talk with your doctor about your health history before you take Zytiga. This drug may not be the right treatment for you if you have certain medical conditions or other factors that affect your health. These include:
High blood pressure: Before you start taking Zytiga, tell your doctor if you have high blood pressure. If you have this condition, it’s possible that taking Zytiga could worsen it. In addition, high blood pressure may increase the risk of certain heart problems, such as heart attack or stroke. Your doctor will monitor your blood pressure closely during treatment with Zytiga. If necessary, they can recommend ways to manage it.
Low potassium levels: Zytiga can cause low potassium levels in your blood. Potassium is an essential nutrient your body needs for proper muscle, nerve, and heart function. Your doctor will regularly check your potassium levels during Zytiga treatment. If necessary, they’ll recommend ways to manage your potassium levels before or during treatment with Zytiga.
Adrenal insufficiency: Zytiga is meant to be taken with prednisone (a corticosteroid). Treatment with this combination has been linked to adrenal problems. It can also worsen your condition if you already have an adrenal problem. This is most likely to occur in people who are stressed, have an infection, or stop corticosteroid therapy. Tell your doctor if you’ve had adrenal problems in the past. They will monitor you closely for signs of adrenal problems and may recommend changes to your therapy.
Swelling: Taking Zytiga can cause swelling due to fluid buildup. This typically occurs in your hands, legs, and feet. If you have a condition that increases your risk of fluid buildup, such as kidney disease, tell your doctor before starting Zytiga. Your doctor can recommend ways to manage your swelling before and during treatment with this drug.
Heart disease: Before you take Zytiga, tell your doctor if you’ve ever had a heart condition, such as heart failure or a recent heart attack. It’s possible that Zytiga could worsen your condition. Your doctor will determine whether Zytiga is the safest treatment option for your prostate cancer. If they do prescribe Zytiga, they will monitor your condition closely for symptoms of heart disease throughout treatment.
Diabetes: Zytiga can cause an increase in your blood sugar levels. If you have diabetes, this may worsen your condition. Your doctor will monitor your blood sugar throughout treatment. If your blood sugar becomes too high, they may recommend that you stop taking Zytiga. Or they may recommend changes to your diabetes medication to manage this side effect as necessary.
Liver problems: Taking Zytiga can cause liver damage, which may become serious without treatment. If you’ve had a liver problem in the past, you may have a higher risk of experiencing this side effect from Zytiga. Your doctor will monitor your liver function regularly before and during treatment. If you develop a liver problem, your doctor may recommend that you temporarily stop taking Zytiga, or they may prescribe a lower dose.
Pituitary disorders: Tell your doctor if you have a history of any pituitary disorders. Taking Zytiga could worsen your condition. Your doctor can determine whether Zytiga is the right treatment option for you.
Allergic reaction: If you’ve had an allergic reaction to Zytiga or any of its ingredients, your doctor will likely not prescribe Zytiga. Ask your doctor what other medications may be better options for you.
Pregnancy or breastfeeding: Zytiga is approved to treat prostate cancer. As such, it’s not intended for use in females.* Exposure to Zytiga during pregnancy may cause harm to a developing fetus.
If you’re a sexually active male* and your partner is able to become pregnant, talk with your doctor. They will likely recommend that you use effective birth control during treatment with Zytiga and for 3 weeks after your last dose.
Alcohol consumption: There’s no known interaction between Zytiga and alcohol. However, alcohol and Zytiga can both cause liver damage in some people. Drinking alcohol during treatment may increase your risk of liver damage. Your doctor can advise how much alcohol, if any, is safe to drink while taking this drug.
* Sex and gender exist on spectrums. Use of the term “female” in this article refers to sex assigned at birth.
Both mild and serious side effects are common with Zytiga treatment. You should talk with your doctor if any side effects are bothersome or become serious.
If you’d like to learn more about Zytiga, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. They can help answer any questions you have about side effects from taking the drug.
Besides talking with your doctor, you can do some research on your own. These articles might help:
- More information about Zytiga: For details about other aspects of Zytiga, refer to this article.
- Cost: If you’d like to learn about Zytiga and cost, see this article.
- A look at your condition: For details about prostate cancer, see our prostate cancer hub.
Disclaimer: Medical News Today has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up to date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or another healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.