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. Michael
    Denver, CO

    I went to ER because of severe bronchitis. I was given IV s of Levaquin and solu medrol along with prescriptions for prednisone and levaquin to be taken over the next 3 and 6 days. Two days later I returned to the ER with severe calf pain in my left leg which mimicked a DVT. It was diagnosed as a muscle strain. It has been about two weeks and I have developed significant knee, shoulder, neck and leg pain and weakness. I am writing this at 1:30am as I was trying to figure out just why I was having these symptoms. Now I know. I am 75 and in excellent health. What does my future hold??

  2. Morgan
    Costa Rica

    I was prescribed 750mg for 14days due to prostatitis. My doctor never mentioned any serious side effects. 2 days later I went on a surf trip for a week and continued the 14 day treatment to the end. 3 days after finishing I woke up and my shoulders were in serious pain. Like nothing I had felt before. Its been 2 months since I finished the treatment and I have horrible tendonitis in my right arm and elbow. I can even feel the damage on my fingers and hips. Its getting worse and I cant do any exercise or its 3x as bad. I’m feel like I will be like this the rest of my life.

  3. Nancy
    Orlando Fl

    I was prescribed levofloxacin 500 mg on Jan 15th and took one pill on the 17th and had trouble in my legs that evening. I did one more dose on the 18th and the stiffness and pain became worse. I stopped all of the rest of the 10 day treatment and now on the 23rd I still am having calf and leg tightness. I reported it to my Doctor so there will be a notation in my record. Thank goodness I had the presence of mind to not continue this med.

  4. Susan

    I started taking Levaquin (750 mg for 5 days) for walking pneumonia. After the third dose my left knee hurt so bad and became so stiff I couldn’t bend it. Immediately stopped taking it. Since then my knee is better as I can bend it now but it still aches and now my wrist and neck ache. It scares me to think that these aches and pains might not go away.

  5. Hannah

    I was prescribed a 30 day treatment course of Levoflaxin after sepsis. (Two 10mm bilateral kidney stones caused it). I have had lithotripsies in the past, but this one (Dec 28) and my recovery time was never this long. I got off antibiotics yesterday, I can hardly walk from my bed to my bathroom (like 10 feet), crippling headaches that leave me shaking & vomiting, hip, knee,ankle & finger pain (stiff, hard to move without forcing it), insomnia, anxiety, and now I’m off it having withdrawal like symptoms.

  6. Ralph

    I was prescribed leviquin 750 and prednisone 40 mg.ms per day for bronchitis. My symptoms cleared in 3 days, but on the 3rd day my left, calf suddenly cramped. I suspected a reaction and did not take the 4th dose. To no avail as my right calf cramped also. Trying to walk is almost unbearable. I researched this drug too late, and found my age, and the steroid dose were significant contraindications. I am trying self help tonight(magnesium pills and Epsom salts). The comments about long term pain are scary, and I am upset that my Dr apparently was unaware of my higher risk status. This drug is dangerous.

  7. Melissa

    I was prescribed Levaquin 750 mg for 10 days for MRSA. Ever since then I have muscle weakness, joint pain (but I have arthritis as well) and muscle pain if on legs a long time. I try telling my doctors this but they feel its from me compensating because of arthritis in my right knee. I cannot walk long distances my legs shake and they want to give out on me.

  8. Karina
    Riverside, Ca.

    I too was prescribed levaquin after a round of antibiotics didn’t work on my UTI. Four days after taking meds my legs were about to give and my knees were so painful. Next morning, I could barely get up as my lower back was almost stuck! My hands, arms, shoulders, fingers, toes, shins, legs, thighs, knees, neck and back were a mess! I felt as i had been in a horrible accident. I conitnued to take it and didn’t get to dr. Until I was almost done with treatment. Before i got all thise symptoms i ran on two hours of sleep for two days and my rapid heartbeat was at its best! I didn’t want people to think i was stressed or think I was crazy. I’m a mess crying as I read all of these other comments. I can’t imagine living like thus forever. I’m really sorry for all you that are going through this. I feel so sad as I’ve never felt before. Good luck everybody!

  9. Greg

    I think we should make these companies pay ! I’ve been miserable after a 10 day course. I saw a fill in doctor for walking pneumonia and when my regular came back he personally called me and said STOP taking this drug. I’ve been miserable for weeks.

    • Lee

      My exposure to Levaquin was more than ten years ago. Getting anyone to believe what was happening to me was a nightmareI, and I was a R.N. I have had a tendon implant, my toes have been fused, neuropathy of my legs with grossly atrophied lower legs, muscle weakness and am having an ultrasound next week because now I fear aortic involvement. I force myself to walk as much as I can, because I was told that even a short period of immobility would result in the loss of the little muscle I have left

  10. runner t.

    I was prescribed Levaquin for a sinus infection. I started having restless lega. Then sore legs, feet, and knees like I had ran too far and wore the wrong shoes. Finally my legs hurt so bad When I went up or down stairs or got up from the couch or chair. I went to the doctor. She said nothing to do but rest, ice, and take Tylenol. No excessive activities for two weeks.

  11. Virginia

    I also was experiencing aching and swelling in ankles and calves. I soaked in Epsom salt in a nice hot bathtub of water before bed and the next morning and swelling and pain was almost gone.

  12. Clyde S
    Melbourne, Australia

    My fiancée (29) was prescribed a 14-day set of antibiotics (Levofloxacin 375mg, Rifabutin 60mg, Bismuth 300mg, Omeprazole 40mg, and Furazolidone 100mg) for her stomach treatment (Helicobacter pylori) in June 2014. Prior to that, she has always been fit and healthy. During her time taking the medicine, she experienced diarrhoea, fever, urinating issues, nausea, tingling, joint and muscle pain, stiffness, burning pain, and numbness. She started to worry on her fifth day when all these side effects started happening one after the other.

    We contacted the specialist who had told us that these are “normal” and is what we should expect, so she continued on taking these medicine since there’s nothing worse than not being able to eat food for the rest of her life. Finally, on the twelve day, she had to stop after a battle with fever. When she went for a Gastroscopy, they had confirmed that all H. pylori was cleared and we could finally move on. Unfortunately, her side effects of joint and muscle pain, burning pain, stiffness, and numbness prolonged its stay.

    This is coming to our 1.5 year anniversary since taking the medicine and the side effects are still present, although improved with Physiotherapy and pain killers – but that’s only a temporary relief. We are now desperate. The specialist had not taken full responsibility and even dismissed the idea of this actually being the cause of her pain. She further developed depression and anxiety after being traumatised by the course of drugs and is now desperate to find a cure. We’ve seen Neurologists, Pain specialists, Rheumatologists, tonnes of General Practioners, who we’ve asked for an opinion about Levofloxcin and none of them believed that this is the cause. How can someone who was so healthy start to develop these pains suddenly while taking this drug?

    • Juliet
      Sydney Australia

      Hello, my name is Juliet, I am 34 from Sydney. I was treated with the same therapy for helicopter Baxter pylori in late 2014 at the centre for digestive diseases, and he combo had levofloxicin in it. I had Glute \hip/ back pain whilst taking it for four days… I rang the specialist and they said to keep taking it… I stopped anyway, but the damage was done. I have been to so many physio”s Osteo, dr, specialists, rheumatologist etc and spent thousands, no one can really help me… I only realised it could be this… I have Glute tendonopathy and sacroiliac joint pain and it has ruined my life for a whole year… Thinking of trying the floxy hope e book diet and probiotics… Have you heard on how to treat this ?? How is your wife now?? I’d love to speak to her about her experience, sounds so similar to mine…!

      Cheers And good luck

  13. Peggy
    Warren, Ohio

    I had no bad affects while taking the medication, but after the last pill the pain started. First in my back and shoulder and then in my knees and hips. Now my calf muscles are so cramped I can only hobble. I’m so tired I can barely get out of bed and as soon as I get home from work I need to sleep for two hours. I am miserable!

    • Sandy
      Tacoma, Wa.

      I, too, am suffering with extreme pain and weakness that started when I finished one week of the medication. I need help to stand up from a chair or toilet because of my knees. I can’t leave home for long because I need help to go to the bathroom. I’m 72 so I already had some physical challenges, but now its been 2 months of pain and disability and reading these comments has caused me concern for the future.

    • Diane
      Queens, NY

      I started the medication last Monday and have since started with lower back pain and now my whole back. Did you get any better

  14. Louis

    On September 15, 2015 I was prescribed 500 mg of levaquin from my family doctor for prostatitis. Finished the prescription first week of Oct. and prostatitis was gone. Returned mid October and I went to my Urologist. He put me on 500 mg of Levaquin for two weeks. I was hurting all over, especially in my shoulders and couldn’t sleep. I got an appointment, gave blood and urine. He said that I was all clear. I told him that I ached from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet.

    He then put me on 750 mg of levaquin for two weeks and 500 mg for two weeks after. My last dose was last Monday, December 7th. On Tuesday my hell began. Starting aching all over so bad I was bedridden and had to take 4 whirlpool baths a day to just walk. I have had to leave my office every day at 10 am, go home and sleep for two hours just to be able to get back to work by 1 o’clock. I called the Urologist office, spoke to his nurse and she got very defensive about the levaquin. In fact she said that if it was the levaquin it would have affected me during dosage.

    I told her to look at my file and she would find I complained of achiness the entire time. I have an appointment tomorrow (Dec. 16). I am 61 years old and it took me very little time to Google and find out what Levaquin’s side effects are. My question is why wouldn’t a specialist (urologist) know or not tell me of the side effects. And what liability does the Doctor have? From what I have read my entire life as I know it now might change.

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