Fluoroquinolone Toxicity

Fluoroquinolone antibiotics (FQs) can cause permanent peripheral neuropathy, tendon damage, central nervous system damage, and a host of other health issues varying in intensity from mild to severe. Symptoms can erupt after the first pill, or they can be delayed by several weeks or months. Some people experience adverse reactions during or after their first course of antibiotics, while others don’t notice symptoms until they’ve taken several courses of FQs. Currently no testing is available to determine who is susceptible to FQ adverse reactions; therefore, taking any Fluoroquinolone antibiotic – even ONE PILL – is like playing Russian roulette with your health.

Since my adverse reaction in 2008, I have joined several online support groups for people suffering from Fluoroquinolone Toxicity. We call our drug-induced health condition being “floxed”, while “floxie” is our informal term for “person suffering an adverse reaction to a Fluoroquinolone antibiotic”. It’s more succinct, and reflects the “flox” component of all the FQ antibiotics.

Oh yeah, here is a list of the Fluoroquinolone antibiotics:

Cipro (ciprofloxacin)
Avelox (moxifloxacin)
Levaquin (levofloxacin)
Floxin (ofloxacin)

There are others, including eye and ear drop versions, but these are the main ones.

Since 2008 I have learned the hard way that the FDA is not adequately protecting consumers, doctors are shockingly ignorant about adverse drug reactions, and pharmaceutical companies routinely deny and minimize the severe health issues their products can cause. If this weren’t the case, I wouldn’t see new people joining the support groups EVERY SINGLE DAY with a terrifying and painful cluster of symptoms they cannot get help for. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard some version of the following statements:

“It feels like an atomic bomb exploded in my body.”

“All my symptoms started after taking Cipro and my doctor doesn’t believe me.”

“I went from being a healthy, active 30 year old to a person who can’t walk.”

“I’ve taken Levaquin in the past with no issues, but this time one pill did me in.”

“I have over 40 chronic symptoms, and all my medical tests have come back normal.”

What might these 40 symptoms include? Let’s see…just winging it by memory of my own reaction in 2008, I had all of the following symptoms: peripheral neuropathy in my arms, legs, and face (burning, tingling, stinging, and other sensory issues), severe anxiety, insomnia, joint pain, tendon pain, muscle weakness, muscle twitching, vision issues, digestive issues, sudden crackling joints, extreme dry eyes and mouth, migraines, depersonalization, brain fog…and I cannot even recall what else. The onset of all of these symptoms was abrupt – occurring within one day. FQ drug inserts mention many of these adverse reaction symptoms, and some even carry a warning to visit your doctor in the event you experience any of them. Well, I did visit my doctor, and she not only had no clue that Cipro could cause my symptoms, but she accused me of having a mental illness.

Sadly, my experience is not unique, and will continue to happen to countless people until awareness of FQ Toxicity spreads. In the 5 years I’ve been floxed, members of my group have formed a nonprofit organization to do just that, as well as facilitate research into the mechanisms of damage FQs can do to the body. Perhaps if we know what happened to our bodies, we can figure out the proper treatment.

By the way, when I mentioned above that people cannot get help for FQ adverse drug reactions, I meant it. If you get floxed, be prepared to be thrown to the wolves by the mainstream medical community, because EVEN IF you have a doctor who’s aware of the FQ issue (and that’s a huge IF), no one knows what really happened to us our how to fix it. But we’re working on it.

My group members have also organized rallies in Washington DC to educate lawmakers about FQ Toxicity. Someday our doctors and insurers will be aware of the problem, so sufferers won’t be met with disbelief during their darkest hours. Perhaps we’ll even see the day when Fluoroquinolones return to their original intended use: as last resort antibiotics for use when all else fails, instead of being handed out like candy for commonplace infections like sinusitis or UTIs. But first, and this is the ultimate tragedy, we must reach a critical mass of sufferers – people whose lives have been destroyed by these antibiotics – before real awareness occurs and change can be enacted to stop this madness.

Until then, I strongly urge anyone reading this to avoid Fluoroquinolone antibiotics in favor of safer alternatives. You know, antibiotics that cannot permanently damage your tendons and nervous systems, or cause mysterious health ailments that leave you in a state of perpetual misery for weeks, months, years…or as long as you continue to exist.* Just a little tip from someone who’s been there.

*Not everyone poisoned by FQs is affected for life, but some are. Many people’s symptoms abate to a manageable level eventually, but there is no way to predict the level of suffering that awaits you after experiencing FQ Toxicity, or how long it will last. In the event that a newly floxed person has stumbled upon this blog, please seek out support groups on Facebook, and visit the Floxie Hope website listed below. For everyone else, please visit the following websites to further educate yourself on the dangers of Fluoroquinolone antibiotics.

Documentary about the Dangers of Fluoroquinolone Antibiotics

Fluoroquinolone Victim and Survivor Stories on Facebook

NY Times Article about the Dangers of Fluoroquinolone Antibiotics

PBS Story about the Dangers of Fluoroquinolone Antibiotics

Stories of Hope for the Floxed

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