Sunday, May 22, 2016

Tendon Damage Linked To Antibiotics

Picture by Oliver.Dodd from Flickr
I thought my patient was kidding when he mentioned that his ruptured Achilles was due to his antibiotic medication. He had to have surgery repair his ruptured Achilles tendon and came to our clinic for treatment and rehabilitation.

I did a quick search and found that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has (since 2008) made it compulsory for drug companies to put a warning label on the side effects of ingesting fluoroquinolone (FQ).

Now if you have taken antibiotics (especially fluoroquinolone), regardless of whether you're active or not, you might want to read on.

FQ are a popular class of broad spectrum antibiotics. They are able to kill a wide range of harmful bacteria and will often work against infections that are resistant to other drugs.They are commonly prescribed for sinus, chest, stomach, kidney and urinary tract infections.

Levaquin (levofloxacin) and Cipro (ciprofloxaxin) are the more commonly prescribed medications. Basically, beware of any antibiotic medications that end with floxacin.

FQ's are also ideal for joint and bone infections and Achilles tendinopathy (or wear and tear in the tendon) or rupture is among the most serious side effects associated with FQ use.

The average person taking FQ has a 70 percent greater risk of tendinopathy and a 30 percent greater risk for a full blown rupture compared to another person taking a different antibiotic. As the Achilles tendon has very little blood supply, it is more prone to injury. It is also the tendon most affected by FQ. The risk of Achilles tendon rupture is quadrupled with FQ. Other serious side effects include nerve damage, confusion and hallucinations.

I found enough data to suggest that FQ's should be used cautiously in a selected group of patients. Older male runners (> 60 years), people with kidney disease, those taking corticosteroid medications (commonly used to treat asthma) are the most vulnerable.

The higher your dosage and the longer you take the medication the greater the danger. The risk does not go away when you stop taking the medication. Tendon problems linked to FQ can appear weeks, months or even years later.

My take is if you're active and if you have sinusitis, bronchitis or a urinary infection, try and ask your doctor if you can take another class of antibiotics instead. This is another good reason to find a doctor/ physiotherapist who understands athletes and knows about your training. Personally I would avoid these medications if at all possible.

In instances where your infection does not respond to other medication and treatment you may still have to take FQ's. You may then have to adjust your training during and after the medication. You may have to cut back your mileage, hill running, intensity for up to nine months after taking FQ's.

Watch out for new pain in any of your lower limb tendons, especially your Achilles (although quadriceps, peroneal, hamstring and rotator cuff tendons have also been reported).

Remember to rest sufficiently after training to avoid picking up any colds that may lead to sinus and chest infections.


Kim GK (2010). The Risk Of Fluroquinolone-induced Tendinopathy And Tendon Rupture. What Does The Clinician Need To Know? J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 3(4): 49-54. PMCID: PMC2921747.

Picture by Thirteen Of Cubs from Flickr

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