The People's Perspective on Medicine

Did FQ Antibiotic Levaquin Lead to Heart Valve Damage?

When people are diagnosed with heart valve damage they may assume it's bad luck. Research now implicates FQ antibiotics like levofloxacin or ciprofloxacin.
The work of heart valves, anatomy of the human heart, the heart in a section view from above

We know you are getting tired of reading about fluoroquinolone – FQ antibiotic side effects. We are getting exasperated writing about this topic. There is a likely new adverse reaction to add to the list: heart valve damage. The Journal of the American College of Cardiology (Sept. 2019) reported that drugs like levofloxacin (Levaquin) and ciprofloxacin (Cipro) are associated with an “increased the risk of aortic and mitral regurgitation.”  As far as we can tell, the FDA has not yet required drug companies to include this serious side effect in its list of adverse reactions. As a result, many physicians and patients may not consider heart valve damage as this patient did.

Heart Valve Damage and Levofloxacin:

Q. I had repeated sinus infections many years ago and was given many rounds of the antibiotic Levaquin to treat them. I now have heart valve regurgitation. Could the Levaquin have contributed to this?

We thought I was allergic to penicillin. When the doctor finally tested me, I found out I’m not allergic to it after all. As recently as a couple of years ago, my internist was still trying to give me Levaquin and I refused. She acted like it was my only option.

Can an FQ Antibiotic Cause Serious Harm?

A. There may be situations in which levofloxacin or another fluoroquinolone antibiotic might be the best or only treatment, but we suspect they are relatively rare. The FDA tells doctors to only prescribe such drugs when “no alternative treatment options” are available.

A study now reveals a connection between FQ drugs like ciprofloxacin (Cipro) and levofloxacin and heart valve damage (JACC, Sept. 2019).  Other serious adverse reactions include aortic aneurysms and dissections, tendon rupture, confusion, hallucinations, seizures and retinal detachment.

The FQ Antibiotic-Connective Tissue Connection:

What do tendons, heart valves and large arteries all have in common? Connective tissue or cartilage. Here is what the authors writing in JACC offer up as a mechanism underlying some serious complications associated with FQ antibiotics:

“Mechanistically, FQs are known to damage connective tissue by inducing oxidative stress within the tendon cells , reducing collagen production, and stimulating the activity of metalloproteinases, all of which may lead to reduction in the integrity of the extracellular matrix. FQs can damage type I and III collagen that is present in the Achilles tendons, aorta, and aortic valves.”

In English:

We recognize that is pretty technical doctorspeak. The bottom line seems to be that drugs like levofloxacin and ciprofloxacin interfere with the integrity of collagen. Think for a moment about how much pressure the aorta is under. It is, after all, the main artery out of the heart. If it degrades or “dissects,” there is a potential for massive bleeding.

Think about the number of times a heart valve must open and close. We’re talking big numbers. If the collagen matrix is compromised it could lead to heart valve damage. This in turn could result in aortic or mitral valve “regurgitation.”

When the aortic heart valve cannot close firmly blood leaks back into the ventricle. People with this condition cannot pump blood efficiently throughout the body. Symptoms may include fluid buildup in feet and ankles, shortness of breath on climbing stairs or exercising, chest tightness and fatigue.

Do Doctors Know About FQ Antibiotic Heart Valve Damage?

We suspect that most primary care physicians and many cardiologists are unfamiliar with this potential problem. That’s because the FDA has not yet put it in the prescribing information. We asked the FDA executive in charge of such matters, Dr. Gerald Dal Pan, if he has seen the latest research on heart valve damage linked to FQ antibiotics. Our question: “Any action planned”? So far we have not heard back.

If doctors are unaware of this association they may not make the connection. That means patients are going to have to figure this out for themselves.

Reports from Readers:

Cari received an FQ antibiotic. Here is what happened to her:

“I now have moderately leaky mitral and aortic valves. I have had a broken foot. I could actually feel the tendon rupture before I fell down and broke my foot.”

Marcia reports that she too has heart valve damage:

“I developed a leaky heart valve and weakened leg muscles after taking Levaquin. Even though I exercise daily the leg strength has not returned and stairs are a problem. Now I wonder if my aorta will shred?”

Erica has received an FQ antibiotic over the years:

“I have permanent nerve and tendon damage from several doses of ciprofloxacin and Levaquin given to me for traveler’s diarrhea, ear, sinus and urinary tract infections over the years. The damage was cumulative. I didn’t connect the dots until it was too late.

“At first doctors didn’t believe that antibiotics could cause such complications. Now they know. Recently I was diagnosed with Mitral Valve Prolapse. I wouldn’t be surprised if it were also caused by fluoroquinolones. My weight, diet, exercise and lifestyle are and always have been very healthy. Mine is definitely a case of living with rather than healing from fluoroquinolone damage.”

Share your own FQ antibiotic story in the comment section below. Here is a link to another article we have written on this topic. 

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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Citations
  • Etminam, M., et al, "Oral Fluoroquinolones and Risk of Mitral and Aortic Regurgitation," Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Sept. 2019, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jacc.2019.07.035
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The adverse reactions are not rare! The reactions don’t stop when you stop taking the drug either, as it interrupts proper communication of your DNA and nervous system. The reactions often are also so delayed by months and even years so that most people are never able to connect the dots to realize that it was a Fluoroquinolone that harmed them as they continue on with an avalanche of health issues.

Uninformed doctors are not trained to recognize the adverse reactions of these drugs either, and so patients go misdiagnosed, leading to further deterioration of their health.

Thank-you for your coverage on the dangers of Fluoroquinolone Antibiotics. I was damaged by Ciprofloxacin Sept 19, 2013…six years later, I have kidney damage, optic nerve damage with optic migraines and am expected to be blind. I have drug induced chronic joint, muscle and tendon pain, extreme anxiety with PTSD, chronic fatigue, and insomnia.

If you are tired of writing about this, imagine how tired WE, the victims, are of dealing with the myriad of symptoms, feeling awful or in pain, and of having doctors dismiss us as kooks. Of having no diagnostic tests or treatments. Of friends and family disbelieving us because, after all, if even doctors don’t believe us… Of employers exasperated and firing us. Of losing our homes because we lost our jobs, cannot pay the mortgage, and can’t get disability because…yeah, doctors don’t believe us…. No one is as tired as we are. We’re the ones who have lost our lives as we knew them. But thank you for continuing to bring this veritable disaster to the forefront. Maybe people will listen to YOU.

Floroquinolone antibiotics took my life. I took 3 pills in 2006. My life was destroyed within 3 days. It’s an atomic bomb. Russian roulette.

I was healthy. I now have tendon issues, peripheral neuropathy, and autoimmune disease.
All from Levaquin.

THANK YOU FOR SHARING ABOUT FLUOROQUINOLONE TOXICITY!!!

My life was DESTROYED by Cipro then Levaquin, prescribed back to back in 2007. I suffered head to toe devastation that set in all at once or in rapid succession. The short list of “symptoms” included the tell-tale spontaneous tendon ruptures in the ankle, ligament issues, a cartilage transplant from a dead child, blood clots in chest and arm, bloated failing veins carved from 13 entry points so far, more coming, broken blood vessels, deep purple bruises for no reason, hair loss, nails fell off, teeth crumbled away, rashes, visual problems of all sorts, auditory difficulties, intracranial pressure, fluids running out of my skull, brain damage of some sort, dry mouth, runny nose, sleep apnea, difficulty swallowing, neuropathy, collapsed lung, pleurisy, low blood pressure, twitching, shaking, jittering, loss of balance, anxiety attacks, low oxygen levels, chronic diarrhea, torn lumbar muscle, umbilical hernia, half dozen bulging discs, sciatica, muscle weakness, chronic fatigue, insomnia, depersonalization, air hunger, chronic thirst, gummy eyes, wild mood swings and severe depression.

There is nothing rare about these adverse reactions, although mine was a doozy. Sadly, people get floxed all day, every day, all over the globe, and then their clueless doctors misdiagnose them with lupus, ALS, Parkinson’s, MS, autoimmune disorders and of course fibromyalgia, along with a hundred or more other WRONG conditions. THIS IS AN EPIDEMIC!

I urge everyone to google the words “floxed”, “fluoroquinolone toxicity”, “FQAD” and “Quins”. You need to know more about this! Doctors hand these incredibly toxic drugs out like candy. They come in pills, shots, ear-drops and eye-drops, as well as on and in surgical supplies. They even give them to our fur-babies and to livestock, which means the residue is also found in agriculture fertilized with manure. Yes, this is a massive ongoing crime against humanity, a disaster of almost unimaginable scope and scale. MILLIONS have been harmed in the US alone. This is the thalidomide story of our era, times ten thousand, and it will be exploding into the mainstream media real soon.

Knock on wood, I have not had any heart valve problems, but did develop extremely painful muscle and joint pain after being on Levaquin for about 4 days. My surgeon gave me a new antibiotic script, but mentioned that he’d given me the Levaquin because patients are more likely to be compliant because it is one pill a day instead of 4. Levaquin is now listed on my allergy list with all my doctors and our hospital, as well as my health info on my phone.

Your first questioner could have been me. I also was given Levaquin for years for sinus infections. We also thought I was allergic to penicillin. I was tested last year and found out I wasn’t allergic to it. My internist was also trying to prescribe it to me as early as a couple of years ago. I refused at the point and insisted on doxycycline. I have had regurgitated mitral and bicuspid valves for years.

Thank you once again for warning us about the perils of fluoroquinolones and yes I personally am getting tired about reading yet another warning but happy that YOU are educating us as doctors are clueless. I know that when the aortic aneurysm warning came out I asked my husband’s cardiologist if he knew about this warning and he brushed me off as if it was not important! Typical response I have gotten since the 1990s when I myself have became sick with many other health issues from FQs and when my dad died in 2011 six weeks after Levaquin when his aortic aneurysm ruptured.

I am 68 now so doctors think everything wrong with me is the aging process but 2 years ago I was diagnosed with regurgitation but never connected it until I read the newest warning last month. I was reintroduced to fluoroquinolones during a surgery in 2013, this time with the ear solution and I became disabled to work. I am 1000x worse than I was prior to this surgery because of the drug used.

I don’t agree with the warning that the research states the timeline for this to happen is between 4 to 6 months and after that we are out of the woods. How do they know that?

People need to be aware of what is happening and again I thank you for continuing to write these articles.

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