Q. I was prescribed the generic antibiotic Levaquin (levofloxacin) on 6/25/13 for “walking pneumonia.” The doctor did not provide any information about the drug. The prescription was for one a day for 10 days.

After two days (2 pills) I was in such extreme pain throughout my entire body that I could not walk, get up or go down stairs. I was in a wheelchair for a week and had to use a walker for a couple of weeks more. The pain in my joints, especially my neck, upper shoulders, lower back, legs, knees, etc. was almost unbearable.

It has now been almost eight months and I am still experiencing joint pains that seem to move around my body: one day my neck hurts; another day it’s my knees, thighs, hamstrings; then my back is affected.

When the pains began, I tried to contact the doctor. I left messages with her office that I could not tolerate the Levaquin and to please give me something else.  She apparently was calling the wrong number, (the office had both my numbers!) and never spoke to me.  Finally, after taking 6 of the pills, I decided to stop as I figured I’d be dead with 4 more!

Upon returning to the doctor a week after my first visit, I told her of my experience and that I had stopped taking the antibiotic.  She insisted my side effect reactions had nothing to do with the Levaquin and were not a result of this drug!  She told me to take 800mg of ibuprofen three times a day for the pain.

A month later in July I saw my orthopedist.  He could offer no help, but his nurse shared with me that she had had the same side effects from Levaquin and that it had been a year and she was still experiencing joint pains all over; one day here, another day there.

Going on the Internet I discovered that many other people have suffered the same side effects as I had…some for years!  I called the FDA to report the above, but was not able to get any of the required information from the pharmacy (no manufacturer, expiration date, Lot.#, etc.). I completed 5 pages of information on the FDA’s MedWatch form about side effects and such and faxed them to the FDA.  I also discovered there are some 3400 lawsuits regarding levofloxacin.

A. You are not the first person to report serious complications from levofloxacin (Levaquin). This is an antibiotic in the class called fluoroquinolones (FQs) or quinolones for short. Other medications include ciprofloxacin (Cipro), levofloxacin (Levaquin) and moxifloxacin (Avelox).

You are also correct that it is hard to complete the FDA’s MedWatch forms because it is almost impossible to get the essential information they demand (manufacturer, expiration date, Lot # and NDC number).

Here are some other somewhat similar experiences posted to our website:

“I was taking a 30-day prescription of Cipro for a prostate infection. After playing full court basketball, I awoke the next morning to knees that felt as though they were encased in concrete.

“My legs constantly ache as if I had just walked 20 miles.  Many nights I cannot sleep due to the pain in my legs and, for now, I cannot play basketball as the left knee area, in particular, is too weak.

“Ever since that time (20 months ago) I have suffered in every way imaginable. Sometimes I cannot even walk up my apartment stairs. I have seen my doctor, an acupuncturist and chiropractors. No one can make it go away. This has totally impacted my life, since I can’t play tennis and have a very hard time playing basketball. Do you have a suggestion?” Doug


“I took this medicine four years ago. I was also very physically active before taking it. After 7 days on the med, I developed body-wide tendon and nerve damage that has yet to improve. There are literally thousands of people who have been crippled.” Greg


“I had a similar experience with Cipro. I took it a year and a half ago and have had terrible joint problems ever since. The problems started almost immediately after taking Cipro. I’ve had to spend thousands on tests, physical therapy and doctors’ visits. The worst is my feet and ankles hurt so bad that walking is difficult now. I can no longer exercise without suffering days of pain. All this time, there is some improvement but much of the damage is permanent.” D.B.


“I took Levaquin on Nov.14, 2012. After 6 pills I had Achilles tendonitis, small tears, muscle aches and joint pain all over. Two years later I am still suffering from tendonitis, bursitis in my shoulder joints, fatigue and insomnia. I never ached so much in my life and it continues to get worse. I walk with a cane. There is numbness in my foot and leg diagnosed as neuropathy. Levaquin was prescribed for suspected urinary tract infection. It was contraindicated with my other meds and my age. This just should not be.

“This drug has caused permanent damage and ended most of my life activities. Doctors need to be informed what this med does and care about the consequences. I hope this antibiotic gets off the market or is used only in a life or death situation.” L.P.


We could provide dozens of other stories, but by now you have the idea. According to the Food and Drug Administration, more than 21 million people get a prescription for a quinolone antibiotic each year. Such drugs are prescribed for sinusitis, urinary tract infections, bronchitis, pneumonia, prostatitis and skin infections. Cipro has been around for decades.

The FDA issued an alert about FQs last year about neuropathy:

“This serious nerve damage potentially caused by fluoroquinolones may occur soon after these drugs are taken and may be permanent… Peripheral neuropathy is a nerve disorder occurring in the arms or legs. Symptoms include pain, burning, tingling, numbness, weakness, or a change in sensation to light touch, pain or temperature, or the sense of body position. It can occur at any time during treatment with fluoroquinolones and can last for months to years after the drug is stopped or be permanent. Patients using fluoroquinolones who develop any symptoms of peripheral neuropathy should tell their health care professionals right away.”

In addition to the nerve damage, these drugs can cause lots of other serious complications, including tendinitis or even tendon rupture. When this happens it can be a life-altering event. Joint pain and arthritis-like adverse reactions are not generally recognized as a complication of quinolones in adults, though they have been noted in children. We tend to believe the people who have reported this problem on our website rather than the official prescribing information for these antibiotics. It has taken the FDA decades to acknowledge the problems with tendons and nerves, so we would not be surprised if it takes years more for the agency to recognize the joint complications.

Unlike many of the people who have reported problems on this website, we are not calling for the banning of quinolone antibiotics. Goodness knows, we are running out of effective medications against serious infections given the degree of bacterial resistance that has evolved over the years. But doctors must inform patients of potential fluoroquinolone side effects BEFORE people start taking such drugs. Here is a list to be aware of:

Fluoroquinolone Side Effects and Complications:

  • Digestive distress, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, stomach pain, heartburn, vomiting
  • Headache, dizziness
  • Agitation, anxiety, irritability, restlessness, confusion
  • Insomnia
  • Tendon problems, tendinitis, tendon rupture
  • Retinal detachment
  • Nerve damage, peripheral neuropathy, nerve tingling, numbness
  • Allergic reactions, skin rash, anaphylaxis (life-threatening reaction requiring immediate medical attention!)
  • Super-infections including C. diff diarrhea
  • Hallucinations, psychosis, seizures
  • Depression, suicidal thoughts or actions
  • Irregular heart rhythms, torsades de pointes, QT prolongation
  • Kidney or liver damage
  • Blood disorders
  • Arthritis, muscle pain, weakness

Share your own experience with FQ antibiotics below. We want to hear the pros and cons of such drugs. Let others know how such medications worked for you and what, if any, side effects you have experienced.

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  1. Carrie
    Reply

    I was prescribed Levofloaxacin for a kidney infection and after two doses had severe neck and shoulder pain. I just took my eighth dose. The pain is not too bad during the day but is unbearable at night. Decided to look this stuff up today to see if it was what is causing the pain. Wish I would have read all of this before this mornings dose. I would not have taken it. Now I am just hoping that if I don’t take anymore it will get better. I will never take this again. My question at this point is, has anyone had this and gotten better after or is this going to be permanent?

  2. Susan
    IA
    Reply

    I took Levaquin for a bad case of bronchitis 18 months ago. Right after I finished the course I began having joint pain that seemed to travel through my body. At first it was bad and kept me form activities I enjoy. The cramping of muscles and joints still wakes me up at night and interferes with my job. As if I didn’t have enough to deal with before I took this stuff. I don’t believe in taking antibiotics as a preventive measure, why take something to fix an infection that isn’t there? But I’ve had breathing problems and every time I have an episode the doctor wants me to take antibiotics. I believe they should be a last resort because the cure can be worse than the problem.

  3. K
    Tennessee
    Reply

    I just took generic Levaquin for a bronchial infection or pneumonia. Within the first couple of days my knees especially began to get really stiff and hurt. I’ve been off the drug for a little over a week now and my knees are maybe only slightly better. I have to really hold onto stair rails (going down stairs is especially painful and feels as if my knees are going to blow out), and I now have to assist myself in rising from a seated position.

    If my knees are straight, it hurts to bend them. If my knees are bent, it’s painful to straighten them back out. Most of my issues are in the knee area but have noticed odd pains shooting intermittently throughout various parts of my body. Basically for me, it seems that anywhere I already had some muscle, tendon, or joint irritation, the pain got worse when I was on the Levaquin. The pain and stiffness hasn’t subsided since going off the med even though I am not doing any exercise regimen now. I am pretty regularly using Ibuprofen especially at night so I can sleep and also so the pain of moving my legs does not wake me up. I will not take this drug again. I hope this pain and stiffness goes away soon as it is really limiting what I am able to do.

  4. Sarah
    Buffalo
    Reply

    MOVING ON: I have been suffering from Levaquin damage for 5 years from terrible tendon pain, knees, shoulders and achilles cramping. I used to be completely active. Now I am like a 90 year old. ( I am 70). I took Levaquin for 12 days for sinus infection, and on the last day I could not walk for almost a month. Achilles tendon was near breaking/ripping for a year. Before that I was hiking up mountains.

    What I would like to know is — has anyone found any relief from any treatments for Levaquin damage? Has there been any research on WHY this drug is so toxic? If I knew why, what chemically is happening, I might be able to use alternative therapies to help me. I don’t understand what the drug has done on a cellular level. Does anyone know anything? Thanks

  5. Anglela
    Lawrenceville, GA.
    Reply

    I have taken Leviquin for varies reasons ranging from sinus infection to bladder infections through out years. At first, i thought my joint pain came from exercise e.g. jogging or aerobics, but i notice my joint pain was getting worse. I went from doctor to doctor trying to find out what was going on. They ordered blood work, x-rays, MRIs, and even put me on anti-immflammtory and pain medication. It only helped for a moment, then the pain starts back. I have a history of bronchitis and sinus infections, and the first thing I am put on is Levinquin or Cipro. My joint pain had gotten so bad that my Doctor ordered a series of test to see did I have Lupus or Rheumatoid Arthritis all test came back negative. I am sure this medication is a HUGE contribute to my joint pain.

  6. Carol
    CA
    Reply

    I have been allergic to Levaquin for sometime now. I took it before 2011, not sure exactly what year it was. I do not remember how many I took when I noticed rash’s from my scalp down to my waist. I notified my Doctor and he told me to stop taking them, which I did. Since that time, little by little, I’ve had different problems, which could be related to this drug. I’ve got COPD, on O2 24/7 now, plus inhalers, nebulizers, chest shaker, and take mucus relieving drug when needed. I have Vitreous Detachment (eye where the retina is attached). I have cataracts. I have had balancing problems (gait), neuropathy, tremors, CMC of the left hand, Scolosis of the cervical and lumbar areas, and degenerative hip and spine areas. I am 70 years old, so I’m assuming some of these aliments are from aging, but my God all of them????? I now have to see a Cardiologist on Wednesday 5/18 for possibly Abnormal Heart Rhythm problems. My heart while at rest starts to beat very fast. I’m so confused and don’t know if I should persue this further with an attorney??? Comments?

  7. Anne
    LA
    Reply

    I have taken both Levaquin and Cipro over the years …but this last prescription (for sinusitis) has laid me out. I thought it might be that I’d never had generic Levaquin before and the formulation must have changed. I also have peripheral neuropathay that was thought to have been caused by my Type 2 diabetes. But now I wonder….. since it came out of the blue a few years ago, if it was related to usage of these drugs. I have stopped the 500 mg of Levafloxin on my 3rd dose today and pray I will be okay. Guess you have to Google before you take any drug these days !

  8. Frances
    Queens, New York
    Reply

    I was on Levaquin for 5 days this past October for a severe infection. About a week later I nearly fainted on the job and was found to have hypotension. The doctor cut my BP med in half. Next, I awoke feeling as if I were getting the flu or I’d been beaten up. My entire body was achy from head to toe. Although I had no fever, I had chills that no amount of blankets could alleviate. I lay curled up in bed, exhausted, for two days. There were 5 more episodes over the next eight weeks. Three doctors found nothing wrong with me. A fourth doctor, a rheumatologist, tentatively diagnosed fibromyalgia. I know that was wrong. I don’t have pain at any of the classic pressure points. Since January, I’ve had migrating muscle and joint pain with no apparent relation to a specific activity or degree of activity. I’ll wake up with an aching right upper arm and shoulder, then it will go away only to be followed by pain in my neck, back, ankle, or knee. Tingling or pins and needles sensations in my hands and feet have become normal. I ignore it. As I write, my right elbow, forearm and wrist ache. Thus far, Lyme disease, rheumatoid arthritis, ms, lupus, sleep apnea have all been ruled out by tests. I am not diabetic. Knee and ankle pain has prevented me from walking, formerly my main form of exercise. I used to walk for miles on end. Now I’m in too much pain to go any farther than a block or two. I have to sit and rest before turning around and walking back. Stairs are difficult, some days more than others. Unfortunately, I both live and work on the fourth floor of buildings without an elevator. I make it up and down, but one step at a time, clinging to the railing or bracing my back against the wall. I require 9-10 hours sleep to function decently the next day. I used to get along fine on 6 1/2 hours. I have a neurologist appointment in three weeks, but I’m not getting my hopes up.
    If anyone else has had this, did you get better over time or find an effective treatment?

  9. Lisa
    Michigan
    Reply

    I took Levaquin for 10 days for a staff infection from a dermatology procedure. Three or four days into it I started noticing my legs were very tired and my knees were stiff. I thought it was because I was resuming normal activity after six weeks of keeping my leg up and not doing anything strenuous. However two weeks later my knees are still very sore and stiff. Not sure if it is getting better, maybe a little bit the last day or two but I need to take Motrin to sleep or do any sporting activities. Never had knee problems before this so I am sure it has to do with the Levaquin. I am a 61-year-old female .

  10. Margie
    NY
    Reply

    Hi All,
    I feel your pain. I was prescribed Levaquin for 10 days 500 mg per day for a supposed UTI. (later tested negative for it but had been suffering with it badly so I continued to take the med) I happen to have also had an infection going on in my nasal sinus’s and a little bit in my lungs and something around my heart .. and had been to ENT for this.

    I was out of town when I went to urgent care and they gave me the levaquin. My UTI symptoms did not really get much better but ultimately did and I tolerated the meds okay.. one MAJOR important comment I’ll make is that the Doctor that prescribed this said in somewhat of a scary tone.. “YOU MUST DRINK ALOT OF WATER WITH “THIS” MEDICINE”. YOU MUST.. something made me think this was very serious.. so I made sure that I went off all other vitamins (that might have interfered) and only took my blood pressure meds .. ate well and drank and drank and drank large poland spring bottles 3 a day…always with the idea that as soon as I took the last pill..

    I was going to start high quality probiotics.. well by the time I got to the 10th day and a few days later I had tendontitis in my hips, weakness in one leg and weakness in other areas too.. but I diligently took the probiotics immediately I think that would be good to take for 30 days..and I started to research the drug more carefully. I read somewhere that it affects your enzymes..

    I was very lucky and started taking enzymes. I was diligent to go slowly with moving around and I made a good recovery.. I think enzymes and probiotics and plenty of water is the key.. I think it will still do anyone out there good to take these.. I only took the enzymes 2 weeks and now intermittently..I didn’t want to suppress my own body from making enzymes and unlike probiotics, enzymes I believe go in and out and don’t stay.. so you have to not get your body dependant upon these as well.. but to take them for a week or 2 and then every 5 days or 7 I think would be okay..

    I also started to take my high potency vitamins again..I asked around what helps stimulate your own enzymes to work and someone said “bitters”.. our local chocolate gourmet shop makes his DARK chocolate with bitters!! I lucked out again and happen to go there a few times after this whole ordeal and had his own home made dark bark and I asked him. why am I not getting sick or symptoms from this chocolate.. no stomach ache.. no zits no nothing.. he said.. because I don’t use sugar I use bitters!!!!!!! and sweet cocoa.. wow.. this all happened right when I needed it too.. I had about 3 huge helpings over that week and half and I think it helped.. it was delicious also!..homemade dark chocolate made with bitters.. how did I stumble upon this?

    The good news is that the levaquin CURED my sinus infection (remember I was prescribed this for a UTI and it ended up curing 2 other ailments that were pretty bad.. but the UTI.. that seemed to have cured only slowly) So my sinus problems got cured, my gurgling around my heart got cured.. I stopped hearing the gurgling/palpitation that was around my heart.. which I also think was from an infection..(it showed up on an echo cardiogram and the doctors didn’t offer anything for it.. by accident I took the levaquin for the UTI and bingo the heart thing got better..

    This is a potent drug and probably should truly be only given out for only certain ailments and with STRICT instructions and immediate follow up with probiotics and enzymes.. I hope this helps someone out there.. lots of water too.. good luck and God Bless

  11. John
    Frisco Tx
    Reply

    I took Leviquin for 10 days, had no symptoms while taking it for a serious cough and congestion. The day after taking the last pill, I felt very sick, flu like symptoms, and legs are hurting and aching. It’s been 1-2 weeks now and my legs feel worse everyday. Took aspirin to help rid pain, but that isn’t working anymore. Wondering if anyone had similar symptoms and if so, how long will this last. Pain and cramps in my legs are unbearable. What can a person do to ease the pain? Totally miserable in Texas.

    • Mona
      Alabama
      Reply

      I took leviquin for 7 days for a kidney infection. Ever since I’ve had worsening leg, knee and ankle pain. It seems to get worse instead of better. I have no idea what to do from here.

    • Daniel
      Calif.
      Reply

      In February after pneumonia in the hospital I was given Levofloaxacin for 7days dosage at home. About ten days later my legs, ankles and feet began to swell, blister and peel with excruciating pain radiating throughout, up and down non stop. Three months later it remains much the same even though some swelling has subsided. It was only the other day on TV that I heard a woman tell of her nightmare after taking this drug and then I learned what has happened to me. The pain doesn’t stop no matter what I’ve tried except for a little relief from Lidocaine burn spray( about 5 minutes worth). When I told my doctor he more or less waved me off;”didn’t know”. This drug is poison.

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