GI disturbances are the most common side effect of fluoroquinolones and include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. These adverse effects occur in about 2-20% of individuals taking fluoroquinolones.
A wide range of skin rashes have been reported with fluoroquinolone use including photosensitivity reactions to life threatening reactions like Stevens Johnson syndrome.
CNS side effects have been reported with fluoroquinolone use including headache and a wide range of adverse psychiatric effects including anxiety, panic attacks, and depression.
A rare but serious adverse reaction with fluoroquinolones is spontaneous tendon rupture in adults. The Achilles tendon is the most common tendon affected and individuals taking concurrent corticosteroid therapy are at highest risk.
Fluoroquinolones can cause fibromyalgia-like symptoms, especially in children. Common complaints include arthralgia, myalgia and leg cramps for all drugs within the class.
Fluoroquinolones can damage cartilage and ligaments and therefore are not recommended for use in pregnant women or children.
Teratogens are agents that cause a defect or malformation in the development of the embryo or fetus. Fluoroquinolones are considered teratogens because they can damage cartilage and ligaments. Therefore, they are not recommended for use in pregnant women or children.
Fluoroquinolones prolong the heart's QT interval by blocking voltage-gated potassium channels. Prolongation of the QT interval can lead to torsades de pointes, a life-threatening arrhythmia, but in practice this appears relatively uncommon in part because the most widely prescribed fluoroquinolones (ciprofloxacin and levofloxacin) only minimally prolong the QT interval.
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