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Cytarabine is used for treatment of leukemias (cancer of white blood cells) and to reduce the severity of symptoms associated with acute myeloid leukemia. It is also used to treat leukemia associated with meningitis (inflammation of protective membrane covering brain and spinal cord).

How it works

Cytarabine belongs to a group of medicines called antimetabolites. It works by inhibiting the growth and spread of cancer cells in the body.

Common side effects

Increased sensitivity to light, Rapid and repetitive movement of the eyes, Rash, Liver enzyme increased, Abdominal pain, Abnormal kidney function test, Blisters on skin, Blood in urine, Blood in vomit, Blood vessel inflammation, Bruise, Decreased blood cell count, Diarrhoea, Shortness of breath, Difficulty in urination, Fever, Bleeding gums, Hair loss, Increased uric acid level in blood, Injection site swelling, Injection site thrombosis, Loss of appetite, Sick, Feeling of discomfort, Nausea, Reduced consciousness, Skin redness, Sore eye, Bleeding, Anal ulcer, Sore mouth, Speech disorder, Urticaria, Visual impairment, Vomiting, Watery eyes, Burning eyes


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Expert advice

  • You may be monitored closely for severity of symptoms.
  • You will be told to undergo tests for blood counts, bone marrow, liver and kidney functions at regular intervals of time.
  • Inform your doctor if you have recently received chemotherapy or radiotherapy or you are scheduled for radiotherapy.
  • Consult your doctor if you are suffering from any liver disorder.
  • Stop taking cytarabine if you develop severe allergic reaction.
  • Taking cytarabine may increase your uric acid level in the blood. Seek medical advice for necessary precautions.
  • Avoid vaccination with live vaccine to eliminate risk of life threatening reaction.
  • Tell your doctor if you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant or are breastfeeding.

Frequently asked questions


Q. Is cytarabine a vesicant?
No. Cytarabine is not a vesicant (irritant) but should be handled with care.
Q. Is cytarabine ototoxic?
No. Ototoxicity is not reported with use of cytarabine. However, please consult your doctor if you experience such side effect.
Q. Is cytarabine cytotoxic?
Yes. Cytarabine is a cytotoxic drug.
Q. Does cytarabine cause hair loss?
Yes. Cytarabine may cause hair loss.
Q. How does cytarabine prevent DNA replication?
Cytarabine prevents deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) replication through inhibiting the synthesis of DNA.

Content on this page was last updated on 03 October, 2016, by Dr. Varun Gupta (MD Pharmacology)