Did you know that the FDA has issued a safety notification about a class of popular antibiotics called fluoroquinolones (FQs)? The announcement involves the following drugs:

  • Ciprofloxacin (Cipro)
  • Gemifloxacin (Factive)
  • Levofloxacin (Levaquin)
  • Moxifloxacin (Avelox)
  • Norfloxacin (Noroxin)
  • Ofloxacin (Floxin)

According to the FDA, over 21 million people get a prescription for one of these drugs each year. That makes this class of antibiotics among the most popular in the pharmacy. Doctors love to prescribe FQs because they are effective for a wide range of infections including bronchitis, pneumonia, sinusitis, urinary tract infections, prostatitis and skin infections.

These drugs have been around for decades. Cipro, for example, has been on the market for over 25 years. After all this time, one would think that the FDA would have a clear understanding of the benefits and risks of such drugs. In fact, you might assume that doctors would have been warned about complications of FQ drugs like Levaquin or Cipro from the very beginning. Au contraire. It comes as a great shock to patients to discover that serious fluoroquinolone warnings continue to be issued, decades after these drugs were originally approved.

The most recent FDA announcement relates to nerve damage, aka peripheral neuropathy. Here is the official safety communication issued on 8-15-2013:

“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 other words, patients can experience this potentially irreversible nerve damage within days of starting drugs like ciprofloxacin or levofloxacin. Even if the drugs are stopped promptly, the side effects can last.

Doctors and pharmacists may not always describe the symptoms patients need to watch out for. And people may not associate weakness, numbness or tingling with an antibiotic, since it doesn’t seem logical that a medicine designed to overcome an infection would damage nerves. Such symptoms may not seem that bad, but in some cases peripheral neuropathy can be permanently disabling.


We first became aware of unusual problems brought on by fluoroquinolone antibiotics in July of 1994 after receiving this question:

“I often have side effects from medicines, but have never experienced anything like Floxin. I took it for a severe sinus infection followed by pneumonia last winter. After three days of utter misery and a rash on my back, I started hallucinating. Are there other people who have had a bad reaction to this antibiotic?”

We had to do some digging, but we finally discovered that FQs can cause “hallucinations, visual disturbances confusion, dizziness and seizures.”

We talked to journalist Stephen Fried about his wife’s experience with Floxin. In the book Bitter Pills, the Frieds describe how one Floxin pill for a urinary tract infection led to debilitating neurological symptoms that lasted for years.

At the time, a lot of doctors didn’t believe such long-lasting neurological complications could happen so quickly. It has taken the FDA over 25 years to alert physicians to just such a possibility.

The same can be said about tendinitis or tendon rupture. This is another very serious adverse reaction triggered by FQ antibiotics. The first published report of an Achilles tendon problem appeared in 1983. Thereafter there were many case reports linking drugs like ciprofloxacin and levofloxacin to tendinitis and tendon rupture. These can also be disabling complications of FQ antibiotics. It took the FDA until 2008 to issue “black box” warnings about this problem, 20 years after Cipro was first introduced.


  • 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


Here are some stories from visitors to our website. Add your own FQ experience below. If these antibiotics have worked well for you without side effects we would like to hear about that. If you have suffered, we would like to see your story as well. Please comment below.

“I have taken Cipro a number of times over the years and wondered why my tendons, especially the Achilles tendon, were so inflamed. Finally read the side effects and saw it can be a serious side effect to the point of bursting the Achilles tendon. I carry a note with my insurance card in my wallet warning not to give me any of this family of antibiotics.” C.G.

“It’s been eight months and I’ve been to two specialists trying to determine if I have arthritis. They say I do not. I took Cipro and Levaquin within a one month period and it has been eight months since then, and I have pain and stiffness EVERY DAY. What started out as plantar fasciitis and wrist tendinitis then moved into my hips and elbows and is now in my upper back and shoulders.

“I ran a low grade fever for 6 months after taking these drugs. The symptoms started within two days of taking the last dose of Levaquin. I have not even addressed the fatigue, irritability and mood changes I experienced during the first three months after taking the drug. I was healthy, active and exercised regularly. Now I don’t know what to do–stretching generally aggravates my pain. How can the FDA allow this drug to be prescribed?” Augsdi

“In 2000 I had an adverse reaction to Cipro: inflammation of most of my connective tissue to the point of needing help to get up out of bed or get dressed. I was unable to lift much and could not sit for more than 15 minutes due to the pain. My doctors could not believe it was the Cipro. It was 5 years before I was able to hike and ride my bike again.” Jo

“The quinolone drugs, Cipro, Levaquin, Avelox, etc. are extremely strong and dangerous. When they go awry the adverse effects are serious, long term and often permanent.

“The awareness in the medical community of these dangers is extremely poor and often the concerns of patients suffering from adverse effects of these drugs are dismissed as ‘not possible,’ despite studies and literature citing these very effects i.e. neuropathy, tendon ruptures, neuromuscular damage, cartilage damage and others.

“I struggle to heal from 5 days of Cipro given a year ago and have met hundreds of people now who are going through similar struggles due to quinolone antibiotics. These drugs, though tolerated by many, should only be dispensed when there is no safer alternative due to the severity and permanence of adverse effects.” Tao


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  1. Elroy
    Amsterdam, The Netherlands

    I was given levofloxacin for a urinary tract infection. Two thirds into my 2nd week I got severe tingling in my right leg. I remembered reading it was a side effect, but with just 4 days to go foolishly ignored it.

    After the course was over the tingling subsided and was replaced with numbness. For the past 4 months I’ve now had two spots on my right leg that permanently feel numb. I have some feeling left there, and my doctor is hopeful it might improve over time, but no guarantees.

    The good news is that after I stopped with the anti-biotics it stopped spreading, and you get used to it pretty fast.

    Just to be sure I was tested for several other more common causes of peripheral neuropathy ( diabetes, B12 deficiency, uoto-immune) and all tests (fortunately) came back negative.

    So lesson learned: ready the leaflet you get with your medicine thoroughly!

  2. Sonia

    I was given Cipro for a UTI January of 2019 for 7 days. Within 2 weeks I started getting groin burning and then burning tingling in my feet and hands. I have dizziness on and off with numbness in my fingers and toes. I’ve been having these problems for almost 3 months now. Also 3 weeks after taking it I had a popping sound in my knee which resulted in an injury and could not walk on it for 6 weeks. Very frightening. I hope to see a neurologist soon just to be sure there is not another reason for all these sudden problems. I took Cipro 20 years ago and didn’t have any side effects. Unbelievable that they claim this is a RARE side effect yet I’m seeing others having similar problems!

  3. Marlene

    I took Augmentin 875 mg twice a day for a UTI. After 3 days I started getting ringing in my ears and then pins and needles everywhere. It has now progressed to burning pain all over my body including my scalp along with hyperacusis. It has been 3 months, and the burning continues. Has anyone else experienced nerve damage from tbe high dosage Augmentin? It’s a nightmare!°

  4. Marissa

    I know this is strictly for the antibiotics listed above- but I have taken Flygyl before for a bacterial vaginal infection and
    About 4 days into the prescription, I started noticing that with each dose, the symptoms would get stronger.
    -that would be the dizziness, irritability, numbness in arms, confused.
    And it would get even worse if I didn’t eat something with each dosage.
    I ended up calling poison control and they realized that it was a really bad reaction.
    I just stopped taking it right then and there. Thankfully the symptoms were only lasting for a couple of hours after each dose and wasn’t permanent. But still!!! Such a scary thing to feel happening to your body
    The medical ‘industry’ needs to use their money for more research
    -not just for a quick way to get another product out there

  5. Nancy
    Venice, Fl

    I was given Cipro 500 mg. (2 tabs) to take the same day for a UTI. This was in April 19, 2018 and at 3am the next morning I went to get up to use the BR and could not walk or talk. 911 was called and I was in the ER, went through a battery of tests, admitted for two days, even went through a cardiac catheterization as troponin levels were rising and it was thought I may have a blockage in a blood vessel. No blockage, all reports were clean. 5 months later I am hit with horrible burning in my thighs, lower legs and buttocks. I work as a nurse two days a week (my passion) but it takes a toll here. I occasionally get headaches. I know as a nurse and have consulted with one of our neurologists on staff that FQ’s are meds that you can take once, twice and nothing happens and for some people, never. But then there are the rest of us who experience this neuropathy and wonder if it will ever subside. My pain comes on daily, and am hardest hit during the night. Tylenol is of no help. It also seems at times I have bladder issues but I tested my urine at work the other day and it’s all good, no nothing in it. I am allergic to Penicillin, Bactrim and now Cipro. I don’t know where this would leave me if I was in dire need, but not with this medication. At times when I get up during the night, I walk so stiffly with my arms out so as if not to fall. I’m scared and I work with someone who has had MS for the last 8 years and sometimes I walk “off balance” as he does. I pray for relief and a better future.

  6. Beverley L
    Canberra Australia

    I contracted Golden Staph during foot surgery three years ago.This turned to osteomyelitis and I was put on Ciprofloxacinand another antibiotic for two long years. During this time I also had three four week sessions of intravenous antibiotics. Due to blocked arteries in my legs none of this treatment cured the infection and I had the diseased bone amputated three months ago.

    I had no problem when I was taking the Cipro but now I have constant extreme nerve pain in my left knee, both hands and feet and inner elbows. No pain killer helps and doctors dont believe me.My life has vertainly gone downhill since that first surgery. Any suggestions welcome.

  7. Little Bear
    Quebec, Canada

    I had recurring bladder infections and was prescribed Cipro several times. At first The Cipro seemed to be ok for me but the last few times I was prescribed Cipro I had headaches and indigestion. I asked the doctor to change to another antibiotic. About 5 months after the last time I took Cipro I started to get numb toes, rashes, swelling on my face and headaches. Now I have been diagnosed with idiopathic peripheral neuropathy. My feet are completely numb. They are painful when I walk or when I sit or whatever. I can hardly wear shoes they make my feet feel “tight” and hot.

    It is also in my wrists and fingers, numbness, pain. At night I have headaches that interrupt my sleep. I have anxiety. I drop’things, lose my balance and i am afraid because I don’t where or when this will stop. Did anyone else have a delayed onset reaction to Cipro? Has anyone seen their symptoms go away? What helps with the pain?

    I am so sad and distressed over this. Worse, my doctor ignores my complaints and questions over this. People find it strange when I talk about my neuropathy and doubt my illness as I look fine. This is a life sentence. I feel old well before I should feel old. I hate pharmaceutical companies and distrust doctors. I had to research to find out what was wrong with me. I am angry.

  8. Cassie
    New Mexico

    2011 given Cipro for SIBO. Developed peripheral neuropathy in hands and feet. Diagnosed as idiopathic neuropathy. Over the years the neuropathy has been progressing and recently lost feeling of touch in fingertips, extreme stiffness in joints etc. Testing for arthritis is negative. I had no idea Cipro was also a chemo drug as well. It’s been seven years and still seems to be progressing. All testing has proven to be negative except for idiopathic neuropathy.

  9. Penny

    I took Cipro when it first came out for a UTI. After that I began having UTI symptoms with out testing positive for infection. Later I was diagnosed with IC. I feel strongly that IC is linked to Cipro.

  10. Susie V.
    Washington DC

    Cipro has destroyed by body and my life. It’s been nearly 4 years since I took it for sinusitis. On the 4th day I awoke unable to walk. Turns out both my Achilles tendons partially ruptured while I slept. I was bed-ridden for 8 months. Every joint in my body was swollen. It was the most horrific pain imaginable. It never got better, only worse until my feet both started to swell and turn purple every night and felt like an overturned tractor trailer had fell on my legs.

    Screaming into pillows and contemplating suicide was a regular daily occurrence. My pain is finally somewhat under control through the use of 3 types of narcotic meds. I was diagnosed with Cipro-induced tendon rupture & toxic peripheral neuropathy (similar to what they see in chemo-induced neuropathy patients), multiple osteo arthritis, autonomic nervous system damage, chronic multi feet & ankle tendionopathy & tendinosis, & PTSD (from the frightening initial ordeal).

    I use a power wheelchair if I need to go more than 30 feet. My arms occasionally lock up like I have MS (not ms, but this is another side effect of the nervous system damage). I was a healthy 35 year old when this happened to me (other than a sinus infection). Now my life is ruined. Do yourself a favor, unless you’re dying of malaria, don’t take FQ’s.

  11. BEC

    What should I do if I have nerve damage and I’m paralyzed in left leg and don’t know the cause but believe it’s maybe from doxycycline.

  12. Nicole
    Vancouver BC

    Fluoroquinolones have ended my life! Two years ago I had a adverse reaction to one Cipro which gave me acute hepatitis in a ER. The doctor acted like I was being a baby and made me that a Avelox on top of it! No one checked my liver enzymes for days. I was left on the Avelox 10 days.
    I had taken Cipro twice before getting c-diff both times but that was my only worry as no other warning was given to me.
    I have had just about every symptom you can from this drug over the last two years. From tendon ruptures, irregular heartbeats, depression, hives and so many others but the worst being the horrible burning of neuropathy that is body wide for me and so painful I cannot stand to even live another day!
    I cannot play with my grandchildren and have to go in a wheelchair if I have to walk more than a block.
    I have spent over 30 thousand dollars with naturopathic medicine to just try anything as there is no antidote for this poison!!!!
    I have made friends on line who suffer so much from taking these antibiotics and have known two young men who took their life over the side affects.
    They lie to you about it being rare as it is not!!! Just so many people thinking they have Lyme and so many other illnesses as doctors cannot believe this and are not educated on these drugs!
    I would never take one even as a last resort if I knew what I know now.
    Will so miss my family and beautiful grandchildren but waiting for death as the pain is just too much!!!

  13. Cliff
    Vancouver, Canada

    I was prescribed Clarithromycin 250mg back in October 2017 for a sinus infection and my ongoing symptoms are numbness in the hands and feet and nerve pain that was severe but is now being managed by taking 1600mg of Gabapentin daily. Seeing a neurologist but have had no solution to the cause or a treatment solution. Anybody out there experienced the same side effects from this specific type of antibiotic?

    • Lisa

      Hi, I took a seven day course of Clarithromycin at the end of February 2018 and during treatment I noticed I was urinating much more frequently. I have suffered constant bladder issues since, tingling in the bladder/urethra area and urine frequency, it has become unbearable. I have visited my GP on numerous occasions and seen two consultants, one who dismisses the idea that Clarithromycin caused my problem, the other did not dismiss it out of hand and commented it could take months to rectify itself. It has now been five months and I am in the same situation. My life has basically gone on hold.

      Lisa – London, UK

  14. Sherri

    Just finished a course of Levofloxacin, I have pain all over from the base of my skull to my toes. I have taken Quinalones before without having this issue. I have been a very active person. Yesterday, I went with my husband to Sam’s Club and the walk around the store left me exhausted and in great pain. I hope this is not permanent and I will never take a Quinolone again.

  15. ellen

    I agree with all of the comments above but has anyone found effective treatment for gram negative bugs other than with the quinolones and bacterium? The situation seems like a no win one from where i sit.

  16. Saf

    Does Bactrim, a sulfa antibiotic cause some of these same problems? I am allergic to Cipro and Levaquin. Recently given Bactrim for wrongly diagnosed UTI and got very sick for more than 3 months.

    • WM
      southwest Ohio

      Last year at this time (fall) I had emergency surgery (intestinal blockage) but ended up being hospitalized on and off for three months. The worst of it was a reaction to Bactrim (after bad effects with Cipro). I had a high fever when I was readmitted , but had left the Bactrim at home and so could not finish the course of the antibiotic. Almost immediately my fever subsided but after a couple days I went into some sort of withdrawal. My skin became hypersensitive, to the point at which I couldn’t touch anything. For me to even attempt to eat the nurses had to wrap utensils in large foam collars and even still I could barely touch them. My skin literally fell off, and lost all its elasticity. I was bright red. My hair turned white, and I became very weak.

      A full year later, I am still so weak I can hardly get up stairs or lift myself out of the bath. My feet and hands are numb and sometimes painful. I must be careful about resting a limb on anything, even another limb, or greater numbness results. Once my entire lower leg became painfully paralyzed as though petrified, like a stone. None of this was happening to me before the episode with the bactrim (and perhaps the cirpo is involved); I was a pretty normal person, running, bicycling, etc.. Now I’m suddenly an old man, virtually over night. I can also confirm the hallucinations some have mentioned; for several days they were so confusing I preferred dying to continuing. I’ve been to a neurologist for tests and he confirms nerve damage. The previous surgery closing has failed and I am scheduled for another to repair a grapefruit-sized incisional hernia and don’t know what to do re. antibiotics. WM

  17. Squirrely

    I took Cipro in June 2017. Starting in Beginning September, I began feeling Severe tingling, numbness, and pain in both hands. I am in Physical therapy and have been since beginning October. Since then I have had an EMG which turned out to be normal. I was left with the question “why am I experiencing these symptoms if the EMG is normal?”

    I went to my Primary care doctor a few days ago (for symptoms of sinus infection). She asked what antibiotics work for me. I mentioned Cipro. She then preceded to tell me that there are neurological side effects linked to taking cipro. I did some research and it sounds like what I am experiencing. Could I be experiencing side effects from cipro?

    I am nervous to take cipro again. I am to have urologic surgery next week. When seeing my urology doctor he saw that I am positive for Bacteria in my urine and wants to treat me with cipro especially before the surgery. I am not having any symptoms of UTI. Should I take the cipro again or not? What can I take instead of cipro to get rid of bacteria in my urine? So frustrated and confused. My Lord is with me through it all. Thank god.

    • Terry Graedon

      Explain to the urologist the symptoms you have had and that you believe they are linked to Cipro. Ask him to select a different antibiotic.

    • Janet
      Broward County Florida

      I am highly allergic to Cipro, which I discovered when it was given to me in the hospital. I broke out in a rash and had a central nervous system reaction, which was that my legs felt like lead, especially from the knees down. Within a week I felt better. Six months later fast forward to June 2017: I had an uncomplicated UTI, and the doctor prescribed Levaquin for three weeks by pill. The last day of the dosage, I became very weak and started to black out on the tennis court. I felt so weak each day after that. I was using a walker within a week, and from that point on I have had severe nerve pain although my EMG was negative. Currently I take gabapentin 1800 mg per day for the nerve pain. I was playing tennis 3 to 4 times a week, worked full-time and cared for my family. Now I can’t exercise because the pain is unbearable after walking a half mile, burning and pain in legs feet and toes, hands and side of face. Work is limited as I have to get in and out of the car to show property.
      It seems that we are all feeling similar symptoms, and my doctors at the Cleveland Clinic in Weston have not heard of this although it is on their website as a possible side effect of the drug. Two doctors in Broward County did bring it up with me. I was thankful. Am now eating cleaner,taking my medication, and trying to stay hopeful that at some point this pain will subside.

  18. John I.
    Pleasanton, CA

    I was just put on Cipro and took 5 pills ( Tuesday, Wedesday and Thursday) I started to feel pins and needles and a burning on my skin. I stopped the next morning and called my doctor. Of course out of the office til 11/13. HIs department suggested stop taking right away…still feeling kinda light headed and have some pin/needles feeling.

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