This article was originally published in April 2017 and has since been updated.
We put confidence in our doctors to make tough decisions to help us lead healthier lives. However, sometimes this confidence is misplaced when doctors don’t take the right precautions for their patients. That’s what happened when Amy Moser decided to take antibiotics called “fluoroquinolones” for a UTI. After the deconstruction of her tendons, ligaments, and muscles. As she puts it, Amy was put on a path that she “couldn’t even crawl on.”
Fluoroquinolone’s Side Effects
The FDA recognizes that sometimes this type of antibiotic is not needed. While only 0.08-0.2% of people see severe side effects, it should be the last line of defense as the side effects are severe.
The Food and Drug Administration has these warnings because fluoroquinolones come with the risk of blindness due to tears in the retina, allowing fluid to build in your eye, as well as a significant risk of acute kidney failure.
Other severe risks of using these antibiotics are:
- Ringing ears
- Burning pain in eyes and feet
- Heart palpitations
- Muscle spasms
- Uncontrollable shaking
- Musculoskeletal complications
With rarer cases of
- Disfiguring rashes
No Treatment For Her Damaged Muscles
Amy Moser saw one of these side effects in a major way after she was given fluoroquinolones. She had twenty surgeries to address multiple dislocations, spinal complications, and ligament separations. Amy explains it as being a “human piñata” where you are so weak that “you feel your shoulder pull apart like taffy, or your Achilles pop and tear apart like an old rubber band.” This happened on her 4th round of fluoroquinolone but many people have used more than that, and Amy fears the physical and psychological consequences of doing so. She believes “it’s too late. The damage is done.”
“There is no cure. No treatment. Nor relief. No specialist even.” Amy pleads. A simple, almost thoughtless prescription from your doctor can have enormous irreversible consequences. For Amy, it means being unable to move like she used to, however, for others it’s a mental game.
Amy, being fortified in her religion, finds comfort and motivation from God because without him, she “would have walked out in front of a bus.” The feelings of hopelessness and debilitating side effects make this so hard to overcome, and without a good head on your shoulders, living can be unbearable.
Amy has spent seven years going to “rheumatologists, orthopedic surgeons and spine surgeons, physical therapists, physical medicine and rehab specialists, and three different primary care doctors.” It is a reminder of why we hold our doctors accountable by asking our doctors the right questions. We must be informed before taking potentially harmful antibiotics because taking the prescription from one doctor today could mean hearing “it’s untreatable” by a dozen doctors tomorrow.
How we got here
There is an epidemic in the medical world of overprescribing fluoroquinolones without much thought for the user of the drug. They are given to patients to heal issues that can be solved with less potent drugs or natural remedies or inappropriately prescribing fluoroquinolones altogether for viruses that cannot be treated with antibiotics.
Mahyar Etminan, a drug researcher at the University of British Columbia, relates prescribing drugs like these to “doctors who are trying to kill a fly with an automatic weapon.” The imagery is poignant and contextualizes the medical world, which is a little too eager to sign their name on a prescription.
What to avoid
Unless it is a last resort, some of the fluoroquinolones still on the market to avoid are:
- Acflox Woodward
There’s no question that these drugs can cause irreparable and debilitating damage. You must ask questions and inform yourself. Take these antibiotics and others only after a thorough discussion with your doctor to ensure they are solving more problems than they are creating.
Your health is a valuable yet complicated thing. Doctors have spent years dedicating themselves to it, and their opinions should be considered no matter what. However, they make mistakes too and having a dialogue with them is vital for your health. To get the right care, make sure they know what you’re concerned about and get them to explain why dangerous antibiotics and other drugs are necessary so you can make an informed decision. Amy and many others have faced detriment because of over-prescribing make sure you don’t fall into the same trap.
This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and is for information only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions about your medical condition and/or current medication. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking advice or treatment because of something you have read here.
- FDA Drug Safety Communication: FDA advises restricting fluoroquinolone antibiotic use for certain uncomplicated infections; warns about disabling side effects that can occur together. Fdagov. 2016. Available at: https://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm500143.htm. Accessed April 13, 2017.
- Hall M, Finnoff J, Smith J. Musculoskeletal Complications of Fluoroquinolones: Guidelines and Precautions for Usage in the Athletic Population. PM&R. 2011;3(2):132-142. doi:10.1016/j.pmrj.2010.10.003.
- Brody J. Popular Antibiotics May Carry Serious Side Effects. Well. 2017. Available at: https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/10/popular-antibiotics-may-carry-serious-side-effects/?_r=0. Accessed April 13, 2017.
- Stephenson A, Wu W, Cortes D, Rochon P. Tendon Injury and Fluoroquinolone Use: A Systematic Review. Drug Safety. 2013;36(9):709-721. doi:10.1007/s40264-013-0089-8.