Saturday, February 23, 2013

Levaquin: My account (warning some graphic detail)

Levaquin is an extremely strong antibiotic. Levaquin is used to treat bacterial infections of the skin, sinuses, kidneys, bladder, or prostate. It is also used to treat bacterial infections that cause bronchitis or pneumonia, and to treat people who have been exposed to anthrax or plague.  Yes you read that right. When prescribed, it comes with a black box warning.  This is the last step taken before a recall.  I highly suggest anyone who is prescribed this medication read the entire black box warning!  This blog entry is just to document my experience with this drug. 

My doctor prescribed this medicine because of a sinus infection I had that was not going away.  The first round of antibiotics I was on was not successful at helping get rid of the infection.  My doctor told me to read the black box warning and not to exercise for 3 weeks.  I am on a prescribed regimen of 1 pill a day for 10 days.  I am guessing the 3 week limitation is to make sure the drug is out of my system completely.  She also told me that one of the biggest side effects the drug has ruptured tendons.  (explains the no exercise)  And worse yet, some of the more severe side effects (such as tendonitis) can appear weeks or months after taking this medication. 

I have been on the medication now for 7 days (only 3 more days left!).  I was told to take it with food, so I take it with the same meal every day.

The most immediate thing I noticed was insomnia.  After taking just the first pill I was no longer sleeping at night.  And I'm still not.  I am up until somewhere between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.  When I finally do fall away into slumber, it is not peaceful or deep.  I am aware of all that goes on around me and wake up easily.  Not a fun side effect, but when you are desperate to feel better, you suck it up.  It's only for a few days, right?  Just 10 days.  How hard could that be?

It does make me a bit nauseous for a few hours after taking it.  But nothing too terrible.   That feeling does go away and it's not severe.

After 2 days of doses of the medicine I inquired the strangest bruise on my finger.  A day later, another on foot.  Both in the area of the knuckles/joints.  I had done nothing but lie on the couch for those days.  I am not sure how I got bruises.  After being sick for a total of 5 weeks when I started the medicine, to say I was tired is an understatement.  My body was exhausted.  Thus the lying on the couch.  The bruising seems strange, but whatever.  I needed to get well.

In spite of no sleep, I finally started seeing my energy levels slowly return.  I am still not myself and tire quickly (by mid afternoon most days), but at least I am able to use my mornings to get things done.  I find this lack of energy to be because I was sick and not the medication.  It just takes a while to build your strength and stamina up after being sick for so long.  Otherwise I would tend to think that the lack of sleep would definitely be hindering me more and I would not be motivated to do anything at all.  Perhaps the lack of sleep is why I tucker out by late afternoon, but at least I have my mornings back!  Something I did not have prior to taking this medicine.

After a total of 3 days doses I noticed my joints began to hurt.  First in my fingers, then followed by hips.  Now my knees, ankles, arms, just about everything aches.  My hands feel like that of an 80 year old with arthritis.  They HURT!!!  At this point I did consider calling my doctor, but I kept telling myself I only have a few more doses left and I NEED to get well.  So yes, my fingers hurt typing this.  It's taking me much longer than expected to type.  But only 3 more days left of the medicine! And this medicine seems to be widely researched on the net.  So I think it's important to make an account of my experience.

A quirky little side effect I also noticed was that for the first 3 hours after taking the medication, I would get ringing in my ears.  It is not constant.  But it comes and goes 2-3 times in those first 3 or so hours after taking the medicine.  After that, it's gone.  It's a nuisance, but that's about all.  I have watched it very carefully.   And never lasts more than a minute or so per episode.

I would get a little light headed when changing positions after starting the medication as well.  For example, if I stood up after sitting I would get light headed.  But that eventually went away.

I have also gotten use to the metallic taste in my mouth that has started since starting this medication.  I can't wait for this to go away.

Another fun little diddy, is that as with any antibiotic, it can tend to upset your tummy a little bit.  And you can't take anything for that.  You also can't take NSAIDS, such as ibuprofen.  Advil is my go to medicine for pain, so this is not fun with headaches and sore joints.  Tylenol doesn't seem to help much.  But you do what you got to do.

I only have a few more days/doses left of this medication.  And I have to say there had been more side effects I have experienced with it than anything I have ever taken.  However, as much as a nuisance as they have been (or continue to be), they haven't been worth getting off the medicine.

My sinus headaches had gotten to the point where they debilitated me prior to starting this medication.  It was constant and never ending.  The pressure in my head alone made me nauseous and dizzy.  No medicine over the counter was helping, and the first antibiotic I took didn't help either.  I couldn't breath through my nose at all.  And the drainage into my throat chest had done a number on my body as well.  My coughing was beginning to hurt my ribs.  And my throat was so sore, swollen, and raw from the drainage, I had lost my voice.  My husband had to take me to the doctor this second time around.  I couldn't walk a few feet with out feeling like I was going to fall over from the dizziness.  There was no way I could drive.  I was so miserable tears fell from my eyes in spite of me trying to my hardest to keep them from doing so.  Crying was only going to make my headache worse and that was the last thing I needed.

I guess what I am trying to say is that being sick for so long, and how bad it had gotten for me, was worse than all the side effects I have experienced with Levaquin.  I  have 3 kids, 2 dogs, a husband, and a home to care for.  I need to be well!  I am so sick of being sick!

Since starting the medication I can now say my headache that was constant is no longer that way.  Yesterday and the day before I woke up headache free!  And stayed that way until the afternoon!  Today, as I type this, it's after 2 pm, and I still have NO headache!  I can breathe through my nose again as well.  All the liquids I expel (blowing my nose or coughing up) are now clear!  No more blood or dark yellow/green/brown mixture.  =)  Army green mucus with blood in it is not fun to see or expel.  Trust me.

I suggest anyone being prescribed this medication talk to their doctor and read the black box warning.  It is a very serious medication.  A friend's husband ended up in the hospital after taking this medication.

Here is just a sample of some of the black box warning for Levaquin:

Get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction while taking levofloxacin (the active ingredient contained in Levaquin) hives; difficult breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.
Stop using levofloxacin and call your doctor at once if you have a serious side effect such as:

  • chest pain and severe dizziness, fainting, fast or pounding heartbeats;
  • sudden pain, snapping or popping sound, bruising, swelling, tenderness, stiffness, or loss of movement in any of your joints;
  • diarrhea that is watery or bloody;
  • confusion, hallucinations, depression, tremors, feeling restless or anxious, unusual thoughts or behavior, insomnia, nightmares, seizure (convulsions);
  • severe headache, ringing in your ears, nausea, vision problems, pain behind your eyes;
  • pale skin, fever, weakness, easy bruising or bleeding;
  • nausea, upper stomach pain, itching, loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stools, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes);
  • urinating less than usual or not at all;
  • numbness, burning pain, or tingly feeling in your hands or feet;
  • the first sign of any skin rash, no matter how mild; or
  • severe skin reaction -- fever, sore throat, swelling in your face or tongue, burning in your eyes, skin pain, followed by a red or purple skin rash that spreads (especially in the face or upper body) and causes blistering and peeling.
Less serious side effects of levofloxacin may include:

  • mild diarrhea, constipation, vomiting;
  • sleep problems (insomnia);
  • mild headache or dizziness; or
  • vaginal itching or discharge.
WebMD has summarized the black box warning pretty well with the following (this in no way excuses an individual from actaully reading the black box warning): 

Common side effects of Levaquin Oral:
Head PainLess Severe
Infrequent side effects of Levaquin Oral:
IndigestionLess Severe
Incomplete or Infrequent Bowel MovementsLess Severe
DrowsinessLess Severe
DizzyLess Severe
Chronic Trouble SleepingLess Severe
Taste ProblemsLess Severe
Trouble BreathingLess Severe
Feel Like Throwing UpLess Severe
Throwing UpLess Severe
DiarrheaLess Severe
Stomach CrampsLess Severe
NervousLess Severe
Infection due to the Candida FungusLess Severe
Rare side effects of Levaquin Oral:
Yellowing of Skin or Eyes from Liver ProblemsSevere
Any Disorder of the BrainSevere
Nerve Function Blockage that Affects Normal Muscle ActionSevere
Abnormal High and or Low Blood SugarSevere
Very Rapid Heartbeat - Torsades de PointesSevere
Prolonged Q-T Interval on EKGSevere
Abnormal Heart RhythmSevere
Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic PurpuraSevere
Inflammation in Lungs caused by Allergic ReactionSevere
Acute Liver FailureSevere
Hepatitis caused by DrugsSevere
Interstitial NephritisSevere
Acute Kidney DiseaseSevere
Severe Bloody Diarrhea from AntibioticsSevere
Drug or Chemical-Induced Sensitivity to SunlightSevere
Erythema MultiformeSevere
Toxic Epidermal NecrolysisSevere
Stevens-Johnson SyndromeSevere
Redness of SkinSevere
Inflammation of the TendonSevere
Rupture of a TendonSevere
Rupture of a Tendon in the Shoulder AreaSevere
Rupture of Tendons that Extend the Hand and WristSevere
Rupture of Tendons that Flex the Hand and WristSevere
Rupture of the Tendon in the Back of the HeelSevere
Serious Muscle Damage that may Lead to Kidney FailureSevere
Abnormal Liver Function TestsSevere
Life Threatening Allergic ReactionSevere
Giant HivesSevere
Allergic Reaction caused by a DrugSevere
Allergic Reaction causing Serum SicknessSevere
Inflammation of the Liver with Stoppage of Bile FlowSevere
High Pressure Within the SkullSevere
Low Blood SugarSevere
Hemolytic AnemiaSevere
Low Blood Counts due to Bone Marrow FailureSevere
Decreased White Blood CellsSevere
Having Thoughts of SuicideSevere
NightmaresLess Severe
Feeling RestlessLess Severe
DepressionLess Severe
Numbness, Tingling or Pain of Hands or FeetLess Severe
Problems with EyesightLess Severe
Ringing in the EarsLess Severe
Hearing ProblemLess Severe
Painful, Red or Swollen TongueLess Severe
Burning StomachLess Severe
Inflammation of the Lining of the Stomach and IntestinesLess Severe
Inflammation or Infection of VaginaLess Severe
ItchingLess Severe
HivesLess Severe
Joint PainLess Severe
Muscle PainLess Severe
Involuntary QuiveringLess Severe
Abnormal Manner of WalkingLess Severe
Loss of AppetiteLess Severe
NosebleedLess Severe
GasLess Severe
High Blood SugarLess Severe
The Appearance of Crystals in the UrineLess Severe
Acquired Decrease of All Cells in the BloodLess Severe
AnemiaLess Severe
Decreased Blood PlateletsLess Severe
Deficiency of Granulocytes a Type of White Blood CellLess Severe
Mental Disorder Resulting from Poisonous AgentsLess Severe
AnxiousLess Severe
The black box warning was 4 pages long (2 pages front and back).  This is a very serious medication and is not for everyone!  Please talk about any concerns you have about this medication with your doctor!

I simply wanted to put  my personal account of taking this medication out there for any individuals considering taking this medication.  And also for my own records.  Since serious side effects can occur up to months after taking the medication, I figured it was best to make an account of all my side effects while on the medication.

Good luck to anyone considering taking this medicine.  It is not for the weak.