The People's Perspective on Medicine

Did Levaquin Antibiotic (Levofloxacin) Cause Lethal Aortic Rupture?

Levaquin (levofloxacin), like Cipro, is a commonly prescribed antibiotic. Are these drugs misused? What are the potential complications of fluoroquinolones?

When most people think about side effects from antibiotics they imagine some digestive distress. Indigestion or diarrhea are perceived to be the most common complications of such medications. But one class of antibiotics (fluoroquinolones, FQs or quinolones for short) may trigger some unexpected and dangerous adverse reactions, as this reader points out.

Q. Four years ago, my 93-year-old father fell and his neighbor took him to the ER. When the hospital called, I said I would come right away. I warned them NOT to give him any quinolone antibiotics because I’d had a bad experience with such drugs myself. I also reminded the hospital that he had an aortic aneurysm and shouldn’t be given warfarin (Coumadin).

By the time I arrived, Dad had no idea who I was. Before the fall he was sharp as a tack.

I was told they presumed he had pneumonia (although he did not) and gave him Levaquin. It caused him to hallucinate for the next six weeks, until his aneurysm ruptured and he died.

I just read that quinolones can trigger aortic aneurysms and I am sure that the Levaquin contributed to my father’s death.

A. An article in JAMA Internal Medicine (online, Oct. 5, 2015) reveals that quinolone-type antibiotics are associated with a greater risk of aortic aneurysm.

In this condition, the main artery leaving the heart develops a weak spot in its wall and balloons out. Sometimes it tears or ruptures. This complication is rare, but it happens twice as often in people taking a quinolone antibiotic like levofloxacin (Levaquin). As far as we can tell, FDA has not yet required warnings for this potentially fatal reaction.

Quinolone antibiotics such as ciprofloxacin (Cipro), levofloxacin or moxifloxacin (Avelox) can cause hallucinations, and other readers have written about their own frightening experiences with such antibiotics.

More than 20 million people receive a prescription for one of these floxacin-type antibiotics each year. A majority do not experience deadly side effects. But it has taken the FDA a long time to recognize some very serious reactions.

Neuropathy (Nerve Damage) Can Be Devastating:

In August, 2013, the FDA issued a warning about quinolone and nerve damage. The agency noted that neuropathy can occur shortly after starting a fluoroquinolone antibiotic and the damage can be permanent. Symptoms include burning, tingling, pain, numbness and weakness in extremities.

Jack in San Jose, CA writes:

“I also took only two (2) Levaquin pills, and my wife had to call 911 since I was unable to lift myself off the couch. This was in February, 2015. As of today, I am suffering terrible pain in my legs, arms, feet, hands, arms, hips and every joint in my body. I force myself to walk so I reduce muscle loss, which is a real problem at present.

“You would think that after 5 months, things would be improving, but the opposite is occurring. The symptoms are worse than ever. The pain at times is unbearable and relentless. All this from 2 pills. Those 2 pills caused kidney failure, liver infection, bladder infection and a week in intensive care. It also took over two months to be able to walk again and regain some strength in my legs.

“Yet today (many months later), my primary care doctor says she doesn’t believe that this was caused by Levaquin. That’s when I asked her if she had read the black box warnings, and she had not. My wish is that she would have to live with my pain for one week. Then we’ll see her response to this drug. I was not informed that nerve damage could result when I was prescribed the drug. I stopped it after the second pill or I would most likely be dead.”

Here is a report from H.E.K.:

“WOW, I was amazed to read this on the prescriptions for Cipro, Levaquin and Avelox. I have taken these over the years for infections and could not figure out why I have neuropathy. I am not a diabetic, nor close to being one.

“My MD says the neuropathy is permanent. Is that true?

“I sure am mad as hell about this that the MD doesn’t warn us about this side effect. It seems as if these drugs are given to us much too quickly and maybe really without a good reason.”

Sometimes a fluoroquinolone is an essential drug. But sometimes these powerful antibiotics are misused. According to the publication Worst Pills, Best Pills News (October, 2015):

“One of the biggest-selling and most overprescribed classes of antibiotics in the United States is the family called fluoroquinolones…Such misuse of fluoroquinolones exposes patients to the risk of a variety of potentially serious, avoidable adverse effects.”

Symptoms of FQ Nerve Damage

  • Pain
  • Burning
  • Tingling
  • Numbness
  • Weakness
  • Changes in sensation to light touch, pain or temperature, or the sense of body position

Other Fluoroquinolone 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
  • 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

If you want to know more about how people have fared with fluoroquinolones, here is a link to 188 comments:

Cipro, Floxin and Levaquin Cause Chaos

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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I had a shoulder replacement in Jan. 2017. My doctor prescribed amoxicillin to be taken prior to any dental appointments. Is this antibiotic safe for me to take? I am 77 years old and take no meds for anything.

I also had a raction to levoquin and cipro. I thought all my severe pain was just age but after reading the comments I now know it is a lasting effect. <y dear friend died last year because of continuous use of these drugs for UTI infections,. I wish I had known this before I lost my friend and before I developed tendinitis and weakness in my arms and legs. My symtoms were much the same as the other contributors.

Oh good grief. A 93 year-old man falls down and bumps his head and it’s the antibiotic prescribed for pneumonia that caused him to hallucinate and ruptured his aorta? Please. I’ve never seen such a collection of stories from people who clearly read the warning labels and then came down with every single symptom, plus others they have conflated with their antibiotic regimen. Yes, you should be aware of and careful of side effects.

No, you should not be on antibiotics for weeks or months on end. And if you are ancient, then be particularly careful about what you take. But be reasonable people, if you are ancient, you are likely developing aches and pains because you are ancient, not because you took two Levaquin pills five years ago. And if you are 93 and in the hospital with a brain injury, an aortic anyeurism, and pneumonia, you are likely going to die.

I remember back a few years when there was an Anthrax panic and people were stockpiling Cipro like crazy. It’s all about priorities and common sense.

@ LInda, from your comment I don’t believe you have ever taken Levaquin. I had a relapse from pneumonia, and was prescribed the drug. 63 years old, an athletic former personal trainer . working out 7 days a week and regularly hiking with my dogs. Never had suffered from anxiety. I also didn’t know any of the side effects had never heard of the drug. Day 2 I became filled with anxiety, my heart beat was rapid and couldn’t sleep or eat and was hallucinating. My Dr from Kaiser told me I had to continue the drug. It was 7 days of hell and on day 7 I woke up with my knee being swollen twice it size, and it spasm. Terrible pain. It has been 6 weeks since I finished the drug. I am still having rapid heart rate and insomnia and my knee is worse and my other knee has started to swell. I can’t walk without support. I am worried about my internal organs if this can cause my joints to fail what else can be going on. I have since done a thorough search of all things levaquin and it has quite a record of terrible damage to people joints and more. I just want my life back. How dare you sit in judgment of people who are suffering from this horrible drug and lost quality of life, if not loss of life itself

I had a simple UTI. The dr.asked if I get them frequently. No, last one I had was twenty years agp. He prescriped a FQ. My hips hurt so bad I can barely walk a half a mile without being in tears.

I used to walk three miles a day five days a week. Why was I given that antibiotic when I didn’t have a super infection? The last antibiotic I had was twenty years ago. Do drs. simply give the strongest antibiotic rather than try something with less side effects?

I was prescribed Levaquin for a sinus infection 13 1/2 months ago, and like the others who have commented, no one tells you that this rx carries a black box label. Someone should be required to tell you! We get so used to a long list of possible side effects that come with every medication that we don’t know how to differentiate between that and drugs that cause horrendous life changing reactions.

I took a Levaquin, within a half an hour I was so dizzy I was close to passing out, blood pressure extremely high (I have had very low blood pressure my entire life), numbness, tingling and burning in extremities, face, head and neck. These symptoms never left but did alleviate some during the next day. I had also taken some over the counter meds and thought maybe it was a drug interaction so the next day I took just the Levaquin and once again within a half hour I was a mess.

I should have gone to the emergency room but that is just not my style, always try to tough it out. I did end up in the ER a couple of times later that week with extremely high blood pressure. I was diagnosed with dysautonomia and told that the Levaquin had completely miswired my brain and deregulated my blood pressure. Along with the numbness, tingling, and burning in my arms, legs, face, head and neck my ears haven’t stopped ringing for a minute the last 13 1/2 months. I also have extreme sensitivity to light/dark, noise, dizziness, pain in my feet and hands, high blood pressure, hot flushing, and just a constant general feeling of being very sick.

The quality of my life has been awful for over a year now. I have not felt good or even close to normal for one minute of one day for 13 1/2 months. I take sleeping pills because I feel so awful there is no way I can sleep, and even with the pills, I lie awake for hours feeling horrible and unable to go back to sleep. I have tried medications to calm my nervous system down in the hopes that it will begin to calm itself down. Just sweeping my floor makes me feel so ill I have to sit down for a while. I wear earplugs a large majority of the time just to block out normal daily noises. My work has also suffered. My neurologist said in the beginning it might take a year to get back to normal. Once the year came and went it was discouraging as now I am left wondering if all of this is permanent.

I fee
l ur pain and suffering, I took only 3 Cipro pills, and I’m so ill its been 6 months, and I’m only getting worse by the day.. I cant sleep, I was put on Ativan to help calm me down as I feel like I have constant anxiety, Ativan help me sleep, but that’s it.. severe pain in my legs, muscle wasting, even the connective tissue is missing in parts of my body..
horrible experience…
I hope u get better some people do dome people take 3 years to get back to normal

Have taken 5 tablets to date and experienced horrible arthritis pain in arms, hands, wrists feet. Lymph nodes as to not being able to lift my right foot to put pants on. Fatigue, feeling faint especially in the sun. This has been scary to have side affects. Given this med for pneumonia.

After bladder sling surgery I started getting UTI’s, and my urologist put me on Cipro. I was on this at least 5 times a year for several years before being switched to another drug. Then my internist took over and prescribed not only Cipro but Levaquin for this and sinus infections. I developed neuropathy in both feet and tips of fingers and went through every test but it was termed undetermined neuropathy. A year ago an ascending aortic aneurysm was found on a routine chest X-ray. The cardiologist found no reason for it as I have no family history, plaque buildup, no high blood pressure, cholesterol only slightly high, no diabetes, no chest injuries so to him it is a mystery. After reading this and other things on the news lately I think the drugs are the reason for this problem. My cardiologist says he doesn’t think the drugs could do this! Time for another doctor’s opinion! I could die from this.

did they fix ur aorta? did u have symptoms of aneurysm.. I’m thinking I may have a tear somewhere, my heart go nuts when I lay down… did u have to have open surgery to repair it?

I am so glad to find this information being shared. I am also fighting side effects of Fluoroquinolones, and the more I read, the more I consider these drugs are causing a man-made plague that is affecting millions. It’s confusing because of the variety of health issues caused by them. There is a site called Floxie Hope that shares stories of these side effects as well as the healing modalities found by many sufferers. From what I understand, the quinolones attack nerve function, which results in a common reaction of periferal neuropathy, complicating in a variety of problems. Because of the wide spectrum of reactions, doctors and patients alike have trouble diagnosing the underlying causes, and it allows prolonged complications as well as allowing the drug companies to deny their liability. I encourage my fellow Floxie victims to read the posts on Floxie Hope for support and healing guidance.

I also had a descending aortic aneurysm and have taken Cipro & Levequin frequently for lung problems. I had terrible pain between my shoulder blades. It was agony. They had to go up through each of my femoral artery Ed to basically put a bandaid on it. I will still have to have more surgery in the future. This device in my aorta can move or just wear out in 5 to 10 yrs. I also had to have a pacemaker put in , too. It’s been a nightmare.

Six years ago my Mom, who had cancer, developed MRSA and was prescribed Levaquin. I sat with her at breakfast as she took her first dose. Within 20 minutes she put her head down on the table and said she was dizzy. We got her to lie down on the sofa from which she went into a tailspin.

She died about 3 weeks later they said from heart problems which she had NEVER had.
It was so clear to us it was the Levaquin we immediately went online to check it out.
We were so angry that it was used w/o informing us of the obvious hazards.

My 88 year old mother was given Cipro and Levaquin while in the hospital and she lost her hearing as a result. Plus she didn’t recognize me, before this happened she was a sharp 88 year old. The hospital told me “after all she was 88 years old!” When I was finally able to get her transferred the doctors at the new hospital told me they couldn’t undo the damage that was done as a result of the drugs she was gone in the other hospital. Sadly, my mother ended up dying from complications.

In July 2013, I was put on Levaquin to prevent an infection after oral surgery. Within three days, my achilles were so sore I could hardly walk. Had no idea the antibiotic could be causing this so I took it for ten days. Symptoms went on to include neuropathy in my hands and arms, extreme pain in my arms and legs, neck and back. Was diagnosed with tendintis in all of those areas. MRI indicated edema in my tendons at the insertion points (where they attach to the bone). There are days when I can barely make it out of bed. I can’t garden anymore or go hiking because I hurt so much afterwards. After one and a half years of suffering, my doc put me on Prednisone (to my dismay) and I felt better. Have been on Pred. for nearly a year dealing with the side effects from that drug – ARGGHHH! Levaquin has really taken a toll on my body – I feel at times like I’m just disintegrating bit by bit.

Wow! Several years ago I was given this antibiotic and it made me so sick, I quit taking it, told my doctor that I must be allergic to it. When I was in a few months ago, they were putting in electronic records and that came up as a NO NO for me. This is just a reminder of how dangerous it is and to not forget why I got sick. Thanks for putting this out there

Took 4 Levaquin pills. Experienced nausea and jaw pain. That subsided, but in the days and weeks that followed I had increasing tendon and joint pain. It was so bad, I could barely walk. Soaking in a hot Epsom salt bath nightly saved me. It took more than a year to resolve. I contacted an attorney who refused to take on Johnson & Johnson. Now, I list flouroquinolones under medication I’m allergic to. My primary doctor denies Levaquin caused tendon damage. Guess I’m one of the lucky ones. This dangerous drug should come with a black box warning or better yet, be taken off the market.

I was given Levaquin and Cipro for a kidney stone , they assumed I had an infection when I didn’t. These medications totally changed the direction of my life. I ended up with a torn rotator cuff, torn meniscus ( need a total knee replacement now ) neuropathy , ringing in the ears, high anxiety and spinal stenosis . I was given Levaquin samples with no information at all on what the drug was or could do to me. I foolishly took Cipro not knowing it was basically the same thing as Levaquin . These drugs are tragic and can be deadly .

These toxic poisons have destroyed my abdominal arteries (they can target any artery, the aorta just takes the most pressure from the circulatory system) and have caused multiple aneurysms and a life-threatening rupture. The FDA finally has given our poisoning a name: FQAD – FluoroQuinolone-Associated Disability. Thousands and thousands harmed and most popular antibiotic family in vet medicine too. Profits are behind this medical travesty. These drugs should only be used in life and death situations! Thank you for publishing this article.

I developed achilles tendinitis about a year ago from out of nowhere. As many of you know, this is an extremely painful condition. I continued working the whole time knowing it could take a year to clear up. Some months later I developed a severe bacterial infection and was initially put on Cipro. When I got the script home I read the warnings put in by the pharmacy. I became enraged and called the doctor immediately and told him not to put me on anything in that class of drugs. I asked him to please change it immediately as I am currently battling achilles tendinitis. I am vigilant about what I am taking and before I start taking anything I research side effects thoroughly. I advise everyone to do the same.

A “black box warning” is meaningless for the consumer because they never see a “black box”. My wife has been given an Rx for Levaquin several times since the black box warning was required for tendon damage, but there has never been a “black box” on her bottle of pills. The drug information form just lists tendon damage as a possible side effect, but does not highlight it with a “black box”.

In March of 2014, I was prescribed Levoquin to treat the diagnosis of Bronchitis. After taking the 7-day Rx., I had to use a cane to walk due to weakness in my legs. My legs are still not any stronger, if anything they are weaker. I now use a rolator if I have to do a lot of walking, shopping, or getting to and from my doctors’ offices. There is no “fixing” my problem. I only pray that the weakness doesn’t worsen.

After starting Cipro for two days I could not walk. I stopped and spent weeks trying to get back to normal. Much later another doctor prescribed levaquin and I think that is what triggered the arthritis that I still suffer from several years later.

I have anxiety disorder. Cipro cause me to have a panic attack and high blood pressure.

I have a long history of ulcerative colitis which was kept in remission by daily Asacol. I was prescribed Levaquin for a sinus infection and developed severe watery diarrhea and turned into a severe relapse of my colitis. I ended up in the hospital for 5 days getting IV steroids and was out of work a month. I am now getting remicade. My medical records are flagged for me not to receive this drug again.

Thank you so much for writing the article which included my dad as the question! This is yet another adverse side effect that these drugs have the power to do. I wonder how many more people have been diagnosed with aortic aneurysms and took Fluoroquinolones. I myself, the cynic, who thinks most illnesses are caused by the Fluoroquinolones if people have taken them, would never have connected those dots to AAs until I read the article in JAMA. It took 10 years of research in Tawaiin to get this info! Thanks again!

I wound up with glasses and intestinal issues since taking Levaquin.

I also have an aortic aneurysm and the DR’s say I may have others not yet discovered. I also will either have to have more surgery or die from a rupture.

Had two detached retinas
2012 or so
Put on levaquin for 10 years

Levaquin, 7 years ago, has resulted in life ruining damage…….Never was told by prescribing doctor, this would happen……only help he gave me after the damage was a wheelchair, and an handicap license…..

Last Feb. I went to the ER. I was told I had diverticulitis. The Dr. prescribed Cipro and something that began with an M. I was familiar with Cipro. I took both prescriptions as prescribed, writing down as I took them. I was 85, and so are my intestines! From 8 am to 12 noon, I had at least 6 bowel movements. I was supposed to take these for 10 days. After 5 days I quit, called my PCP and he agreed to stopping. It’s now the last week in Oct. and although, bowel movements have returned to normal, poop is still abnormal. The ancients ones should have a gentle antibiotic. Just a little hint and reminder that old intestines need more respect.

Back in 2004, I was given levaquin IV for a bladder infection that was bad enough to put me in the hospital. That resulted in hallucinations and five different cardiac arhythmias , one of which I still have today.

I was given Cipro many times for Chronic Bronchitis when I was younger. A few years went by, and I developed RLS. Then my feet started burning at night, I’d get up and put both feet in cold water and it helped. But, the neuropathy got worse. My doctor put me on Gabepentin, 300 mg’s 3 times a day. It got worse, and the neurologist I was seeing upped it to 600 mg 4 times a day. My speech was slurring, I had a hard time finding the right word to say, and was miss spelling words while typing.

The Neurologist who wrote the book Grain Brain, said on his web site, that if you’d take 600 mg’s of ALA and 1,000 mcg’s of B-12 for 6 to 8 weeks, you can cut your dose of Gabepentin in half, which I did. The slurring speech stopped and I’m speaking better. Only occasionally, do I stop to find the right word. I’ll be on these pills for life as far as I know. -Cathie

After taking Cipro for prostititus, I experienced tendon damage (diagnosed by an orthopaedist) that took almost a year to resolve itself. It took years for the FDA to recognize this and mandate a black box warning. Very few of the MDs I know seem to be aware of the problem. Interestingly, one of my daughters and her son both experienced similar tendon problems after taking Cipro — genetic?
This antibiotic class unfortunately seems to be a favorite in hospitals and surgery centers. I make sure the wristband I am wearing and my surgeons operating instructions say: no quinalones!

In late December, 2014, I was given Levofloxacin (Levaquin) for acute bronchitis, seven 750 mg pills to take, one a day. After taking 3 pills I became very agitated and nervous and felt like I was trembling inside. However, I continued the full 7 pills (days) of the medicine because I wanted to get rid of a terrible cough. I had seen this doctor in early December, as my new pcp, and got a full checkup. At that time, he thought it a good idea for me to get a heart checkup since I regularly have PACs and hadn’t been checked in years.

Thus, I made an appointment with a cardiologist before the Levaquin prescription. By the time I went to the heart doctor, after taking the Levaquin, in January, 2015, I had developed a very erratic heart beat. A Holter monitor showed 20,000 PVCs and 6,000 PACs per day. Thus started a series of tests and doctors. I was finally diagnosed with ventricle tachycardia with episodes of Afib. Turns out, I have a healthy heart and valves, just an erratic electrical control system. The medications prescribed were real downers without really doing anything about the arrhythmia so I was taken off them.

Meanwhile, my wife started research on line, combined with a Micronutrient Test to identify vitamin, mineral, etc. deficiencies. A Reveal Linq was implanted in September to try to see what is really going on. Being on various supplements has helped but not yet rectified the condition; perhaps, I have not been on them long enough. The latest thing I am trying is Iodine supplementation since iodine can be a factor in arrhythmias. My doctors are fine with this holistic approach.

I will never take Levofloxacin again. It really did a number on me, evidently damaging/depleting my system of needed vitamins and nutrients.

After one course of of a quinolone antibiotic in my 50s I developed severe stiffness and pain in my achilles tendons that kept me from exercising for some time. It took me a while to make the connection. I have since recovered, though still experience some AM tendon stiffness, as well as neuropathy along the sides of my big toes.

I also had a sudden unexplainable rupture of my Achilles’ tendon. There was no apparent reason for it except for my being on Levaquin for the second time in a couple of months. When I told the podiatrist she said, ” thank you for telling me that”, which indicated to me it was no surprise. I also have had unexplainable numbness in both feet starting at the same time which I believe , after having read comments, comes from the meds also. My daughter in law has had the same issue. Doctors aren’t always aware; my primary doctor told me that it was not possible . Docs don’t always read the little black box.

THANK YOU! Fantastic article! I too had my life DESTROYED by levaquin and I am only one of millions, but unfortunately 99.999% of us have no idea what went wrong! Seriously, these are the most prescribed antibiotics out there and they are doing serious damage to a large percentage of the people who take them. You probably have! If you have any mysterious medical problems, chances are real good you just figured it out.
Google Fluoroquinolone Toxicity, or combine levaquin or cipro with damage, poison or problems and you will see that there are thousands upon thousands of stories and newscasts and websites and groups and books and articles and on and on. This problem is HUGE but people are just now finding out about it. Look into it and share what you learn with those you love. There is a genetic component; our support groups have many people who are siblings or parent and child. These drugs should only be taken in life or death situations. As it is now they are doing far more harm than good.

I too was put on Levaquin. I’m in my late 70’s. After two pills noticed pain in my legs, very painful to walk…stopped taking after no more than three pills, but now after two years off of Levaquin, have much pain in my extremities. Was on a walking regimen before taking Levaquin, that’s over!
I’m very disgusted that I wasn’t even warned by my physician to watch for side effects such as tendonitis. I believe as an older person, I should never been put on a drug such as this, or at least given the chance to decide the risks involved, before taking it!

I too was put on Levaquin…after two pills was having pain in my legs…painful to walk…stopped taking the Levaquin after no more than three pills, but now have tendonitis pain, which is not going away, after two years! I had been on a walking regimen before Levaquin…that’s over! I had never taken it before, and wasn’t warned about possible serious side effects to watch for…I’m in my late 70’s.

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