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 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. Vandy

    I would have died without Levaquin. It was given in the hospital and two pills at home. I was on total bed rest and plenty of fluids. I was weak for a week. or so, but am fine. I think people try to be super human and don’t rest like they should .

  2. Corinne L
    Suffolk, England.

    I and my family, my husband, my son and my two grandchildren, flew to Florida on Tuesday, March 4th 2015. I contracted a bug on the flight over as did all my family and it became increasingly worse during our 10 day visit to Kissimmee resulting in an emergency drive for me to FH Centra Care, Orange Lake, Kissimmee where I was prescribed with Levofloxacin 500mg course for upper respiratory infection. This got me back on my feet but resulted in increasingly severe pains throughout my body, my tendons, my arms, my shoulders etc….every day/ night I have been in pain since. I need pain killers, muscle relaxants and anything which will lessen the constant pain….it seems to be getting worse now and we’re into October. I wake feeling tired, aching and try to keep up my daily walk but it seems to make things worse instead of better. All of which happened since I took this wretched antibiotic! It is threatening to come between myself and my husband who doesn’t understand how chronic and debilitating this is for me. I am afraid to seek medical help as that is what put me in this state in the first place…I am very frightened as prior to this I was so active and healthy. Please bring this to light for all us people who are suffering and now compromised by this antibiotic.

  3. Valerie

    Levoquin has taken every movement or exercise or walking, from my life. There are days that I an confined to the bed and mostly weep with sadness over losing the life I used to have. I can’t hike, I can’t camp, I can’t walk on the beach and I can’t join my friends for our normal outdoor adventures. I am devastated.
    When I was prescribed this antibiotic for pneumonia, the nurse practitioner told me to call her immediately if tendons or acute body ache occurred. On the 4th day the dastardly side effects began and I immedistely stopped
    the medication. The side effects have taken me out of the game of life and I am at a loss as to how to live now. I have just befun seeing a Pain Management Dr. and he has begun a treatment of Nucynta. I have no idea if it is successful because I am in so much pain. Does anyone have any positive resolutions after discontinuing this antibiotic?

  4. Hurting
    Omaha, Ne

    I just finished taking Levofloxacin for 20 days after a bad diverticulitis attack. The pain didn’t come on immediately. It built up slowly, and I unfortunately attributed it to other issues such as arthritis and a back that gives me issues sometime.

    I started feeling worse again after at first feeling better after the diverticulitis. I felt so achey and weak. It got worse and worse, and I thought maybe I had the flu, but no stomach symptoms. Yesterday and today are the worst! I couldn’t sleep last night until I finally took two Tylenol PMs.

    All of my muscles and joints hurt, ache, and sometimes I have really sharp shooting pains. I have been so strong in the past, and now I struggle to get up from sitting down, even falling the last foot or so when going down to sit. I can’t hook my bra, can hardly lift my laptop, and am now scared to death this is going to be permanent. My retirement party is scheduled for October 3, and I was looking forward to an active retirement of bicycling, working out, motorcycling, camping with grandkids, hiking, gardening, etc…. I pray this will go away.

    I go back to my doctor for a follow-up tomorrow. In the meantime, I’m drinking lots and lots of water and taking Tylenol now and then, as that’s not good for me either (allergic to aspirin). I am scared this could have screwed up the rest of my life!

  5. Jhon
    New york

    Up your water consumption I too was experiencing joint pain and stiff muscles side effect, I waited a little longer the next day to take my dose of levofloxacin , and upped my dose of water by 6-7-8 glasses of water and a lot of eating , drink plenty and plenty of water it is the key to not continuing these side effect stay healthy all and god bless….!!!!

  6. RT

    Took 5 pills of Levaquin plus a shot of Prednisone which is contraindicated and makes a bad reaction much more likely. It has sent my endocrine system haywire. Weak, shaky, anxious, shortness of breath, blood pressure spikes. After lots of tests in the hospital docs told me there was nothing wrong and concluded it was all in my head. My primary doctor threw me out of his practice, I guess because he didn’t know what to do with me. Four months later, with the help of a natural medicine team, I am slowly improving but I have no idea where all this will end, or when, or even if.

  7. D stroyed by Levaquin
    San Diego

    Never believed a properly administered drug would prove my downfall. 79 months ago I was given Levaquin, without consent OR Advisement for my pneumonia. The next 2400 days, nights have been PURE H E L L! !! The next nerve sensation will send you for a Devilish ride of itching, burning, shocking, BUG crawling, spider web se Mmm sensations that POE & KING would best describe. IT NEVER stops!

  8. Leeann
    Erie, PA

    Was diagnosed with Blepharitis ( inflammation of the eyelid.) Optical ointment was prescribed, but after 10 days, I still had some discomfort. I didn’t wanted to be stuck with a chronic infection, so I called the doctor’s office and asked if perhaps I should be on an oral antibiotic. So they ordered Levofloxacin (sp?) After taking two doses, I felt like I was run through a ringer, dragged through a knothole, and beat up. Every joint on my body ached. Also got terrible cramps in my calves but blamed it on exercising. Seeing how it was an antibiotic, I was afraid to stop taking it and continued for five more doses. Today I am absolutely miserable and researched this drug and stopped taking it even though I have three more pills left to take. I read that this is used to treat Anthrax and the plague! So, what doesn’t kill you will make you…weaker? Just hoping no permanent damage has been done, and, I don’t have very much respect for my MD anymore.

  9. Val

    Was prescribed for a respiratory infection that would not clear on its own. Did not take the time to research, my mistake. Day 6 I was at the store 5 minutes and passed out? Blood pressure was so low, and tried to stand 3 times over 30 minutes but immediately would get woozy and vision would become greyed out. Extreme fatigue, mind fog, diarrhea, ongoing nausea and feeling faint for 3 weeks after completing 7 day treatment. Never had low blood pressure, never had a problem like this and not one medical professional suggested the Levaquin. No tests found anything wrong. Then I spoke to my neighbor who had extreme, ongoing medical issues after taking Levaquin…Of course I can’t prove it but can it really just be a coincidence?

  10. Jewell

    I took levaquin for ten days for diverticulitis. I began having muscle and joint pain and dizziness. Fortunately the muscle and joint pain has mostly gone but the dizziness has gotten much worse and I am now in my seventh week. I am mostly chained to my house. Can’t drive. I have had six sessions of physical therapy with little success. Have others experienced this?

  11. Pamela

    I was given Levaquin in 2012 for a sinus infection. After 5 days of an 8 day regime I developed bilateral Achilles tendonitis. I was told by the same doctor that prescribed it that the infection could have been treated with a Neti Pot.

    As of approximately 2 months ago I developed peripheral neuropathy in my feet and legs. I now have pain in my knees, and other joints. Until I took this medication people referred to me as a ‘work horse.’ Seldom sick. Active. Sturdy. Strong. There has been a downward spiral of mysterious neural pain. The neuropathy is now causing jabbing pains in my hands and feet. The drug doesn’t affect everyone adversely, but in my case and others, there were clear contraindications.

    I spoke to a casual acquaintance recently, and she was being treated with this medication for a similar ‘non-life-threatening’ sinus infection. Her doctor, like mine, did not discuss the potential side effects. I have been told by 2 doctors that exercise beyond short walks will trigger the neuropathy. Their words. My experience. My experience has been that there is no recourse. Doctors continue to prescribe this medication. Supposedly the ‘black box label’ is sufficient warning. It is not. Until doctors stop prescribing it for non-life-threatening conditions, it will continue to injure people in unbelievable ways and, as for myself, possibly alter the course of their lives. Thank you for opportunity to share.

  12. Debbie

    I went to the doctor and was prescribed Levaquin for what they thought was pneumonia. I took it for 8 days but after 2 doses I started having pain in my knees and my left upper arm. It got progressively worse and by the 8th day, I could barely walk and getting up and down in a chair was almost more than I could bare. The doctor didn’t want to believe that it could be the Levaquin even though he said it was a rare side effect. I then asked, what could it be then, because I haven’t done anything to myself to cause this. I went back in to see him, he ran some tests and my labwork came back elevated for inflammation. I had already stopped taking the medication, obviously, and he put me on a steroid. It took a few days but I finally started to feel better. Now that my course of steroids is done, the pain is back. And every day it’s getting worse….just like before. I was told that the half life for Levaquin was a week, well it’s been 9 days since I’ve stopped the Levaquin and the pain is back. So is this going to continue? What are we supposed to do? If it gets to the point it did when I was taking the antibiotic….I won’t be able to function. This is a nightmare.

  13. Karen
    Detroit MI

    Prescribed 10 day regimen of Levaquin October 2010 for pneumonia. Seven days into the 10 day treatment, experienced sever tendonitis lower left leg. Over period of 6 months, the pain moved from left calf to left thigh, then to right calf, right thigh, then moved on to arms.

    Five years later, I still have side effects- muscle weakness, leg cramps. It’s permanent damage. I can cope but have very weak legs. After a year of personal training, my legs are stronger, but the side effects still resurface on occasion. This drug should be removed from the market. Or…. at least it should be used as a last resort only for critical needs.

  14. mary

    I was given levafloxin for a uninary track infection it raise my blood pressure so high they said I had stroke I think it was nerve damage cause by a server reaction to the levafloxin

  15. Paul

    I was on Levaquin for 9 days ( I stopped taking the medication) and was having significant difficulty urinating….I had a urine test which was negative, no pain, no burning and my prostate was not enlarged. After doing research, I realized that the Levaquin can cause urinary problems….how long will it take to get back to normal? I stopped two days ago, still having the same issue.

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