A new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology revealed that common antibiotics called fluoroquinolones can cause serious damage to your heart. Researchers found that these medications can increase your risk of developing aortic and mitral regurgitation. This, in turn, can lead to heart failure.
What Are Fluoroquinolones?
Fluoroquinolones are a class of antibiotics that should only be used to treat serious infections such as bacterial pneumonia, severe sinusitis, certain types of abdominal infections and ‘complicated’ urinary tract infections.
Here’s a list of common fluoroquinolones:
- Cipro (ciprofloxacin)
- Levaquin (levofloxacin)
- Avelox (moxifloxacin)
- Factive (gemifloxacin)
- Noroxin (norfloxacin)
- Floxin (floxacin)
Serious Safety Concerns
Over the years, the list of safety concerns regarding fluoroquinolones keeps adding up. These are warnings from the FDA regarding their potential adverse effects.
- Risk of heart valve damage that can lead to heart failure
- Risk of tendon rupture and/or tendinitis
- Increased symptoms in people with myasthenia gravis
- Risk of irreversible peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage that can cause severe pain)
- Risk of aortic rupture (when the large, main artery of the body bursts) especially in people with certain conditions such as Marfan syndrome
- Risk of anxiety, confusion, depression, hallucinations, and psychoses
- Risk of disturbances in attention, disorientation, agitation, nervousness, memory impairment, and delirium
- Risk of low blood sugar that may lead to a coma
- Risk of arrhythmias (an irregular heartbeat that can cause serious problems including death)
Despite this impressive list of adverse, and sometimes fatal outcomes, medical providers continue to misuse and overprescribe fluoroquinolones. In fact, they are the third most commonly prescribed antibiotic in American adults.
Overuse is also contributing to antibiotic resistance which the World Health Organization has deemed a global health crisis.
There are situations where the use of fluoroquinolones is appropriate. For example, folks with severe bacterial pneumonia may benefit from one of these potent drugs. But in most situations, such as a run-of-the-mill urinary tract infection or a simple upper respiratory infection, providers should steer clear of prescribing these strong, potentially harmful, class of antibiotics.
Inappropriate Use of Antibiotics
Many common infections, such as colds, bronchitis, sinusitis and the flu are caused by viruses. Antibiotics, including fluoroquinolones, do not work on viruses.
Despite very clear guidelines for the appropriate use of antibiotics, many providers continue to overprescribe them even when they know there will be absolutely no benefit to the patient.
A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Pew Charitable Trusts shows that around 1 in 3 antibiotics prescribed at outpatient facilities are unnecessary. This amounts to 47 million inappropriate, and potentially dangerous, prescriptions written for patients every year.
What a lot of folks may not realize is that antibiotics, as with any medication, can come with lots of unwanted side effects. And some antibiotics can cause serious damage to your body and affect your mental well-being as is the case with fluoroquinolones.
What You Can Do
If your provider suggests that you need a fluoroquinolone, ask these questions before you say yes.
- Do you believe my illness is caused by a virus or bacteria? (Remember, antibiotics do not work on viruses)
- Do I really need an antibiotic or will this resolve on its own with supportive therapy?
- If I do need an antibiotic, is there another option other than a fluoroquinolone? One with a better safety profile?
- Why is a fluoroquinolone your first choice?
If you and your provider decide together that a fluoroquinolone is necessary (and there are absolutely no other alternatives), then ask these questions before you get your prescription filled.
- What side effects should I expect?
- What symptoms should I be aware of that are potentially dangerous or life-threatening?
- How many days will I need to take this?
- Who should I call with questions?
Never stop taking an antibiotic before the entire course is finished, even if you’re feeling better. If you are experiencing troublesome side effects, let your provider know right away.
If you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, tell your provider. In most cases, fluoroquinolones are contraindicated.
Click here to grab a free quick guide that will help you understand more about any of your medications, including how to take them safely. And make sure to always keep an updated copy of your health summary and medication list with you. Bring it with you to every medical appointment or if you have to be in the hospital.
If you want to learn more about other high-risk medications and medical devices, head on over to Drugwatch.com.
Be a Prudent Patient
It pays to be well informed about your medical care. Whether you’ve received a new diagnosis, or been told you need to take a certain medication, always ask lots of questions. People who take an active role in their own healthcare get better, safer, and sometimes more affordable care.
- Fluoroquinolones are one of the most commonly prescribed antibiotics in the U.S.
- Fluoroquinolones are associated with a long list of adverse effects, some of which may even lead to death.
- The inappropriate overuse of fluoroquinolones is harming patients and contributes significantly to antibiotic resistance.
- Don’t say yes to taking a fluoroquinolone until you’ve asked your provider the questions listed in this article. Chances are, there are safer alternatives for your provider to consider.
- All medications have the potential to cause unwanted, sometimes dangerous, side effects. The fewer drugs you have to take, the better.
- Remember, antibiotics do not work on viruses!
- Be an active participant in your own healthcare. Stay well-informed and ask lots of questions.
- Get your free Medications Quick Guide here.
I hope this has helped you understand a little more about fluoroquinolones and their potentially harmful effects.
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