Tetracycline Side Effects

It is possible that some side effects of tetracycline may not have been reported. These can be reported to the FDA here. Always consult a healthcare professional for medical advice.

For the Consumer

Applies to tetracycline: capsule, capsule delayed release, capsule extended release, powder for suspension, suspension, syrup, tablet, tablet delayed release, tablet extended release

As well as its needed effects, tetracycline may cause unwanted side effects that require medical attention.

If any of the following side effects occur while taking tetracycline, check with your doctor or nurse as soon as possible:

For all tetracyclinesMore common
  • Increased sensitivity of skin to sunlight (rare with minocycline)
Rare
  • Abdominal pain
  • bulging fontanel (soft spot on head) of infants
  • headache
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea and vomiting
  • visual changes
  • yellowing skin
For demeclocycline onlyLess common
  • Greatly increased frequency of urination or amount of urine
  • increased thirst
  • unusual tiredness or weakness
For minocycline onlyLess common
  • Pigmentation (darker color or discoloration) of skin and mucous membranes

Some tetracycline side effects may not need any medical attention. As your body gets used to the medicine these side effects may disappear. Your health care professional may be able to help you prevent or reduce these side effects, but do check with them if any of the following side effects continue, or if you are concerned about them:

For all tetracyclinesMore common
  • Cramps or burning of the stomach
  • diarrhea
Less common
  • Itching of the rectal or genital (sex organ) areas
  • sore mouth or tongue
For minocycline onlyMore common
  • Dizziness, light-headedness, or unsteadiness

In some patients tetracyclines may cause the tongue to become darkened or discolored. This effect is only temporary and will go away when you Stop taking tetracycline.

For Healthcare Professionals

Applies to tetracycline: compounding powder, oral capsule, oral suspension, oral tablet

Gastrointestinal

Gastrointestinal side effects have included anogenital lesions with monilial overgrowth, anorexia, black hairy tongue, dysphagia, enamel hypoplasia, enterocolitis, epigastric distress, diarrhea, glossitis, nausea, permanent tooth discoloration, and vomiting. Rarely, esophageal ulceration has been reported with oral tablets and capsules.

There have been several cases of esophageal ulcers associated with oral tetracycline therapy. In each case, the patient had taken the medication just before bedtime with only small amounts of liquid and reported severe retrosternal pain and painful swallowing shortly thereafter. The ulcers resolved spontaneously after discontinuation of tetracycline therapy. To minimize esophageal irritation, patients should be advised to avoid taking tetracycline just before retiring and to take the medication with plenty of water.

Oral ulcers have also occurred in a patient who gargled with a tetracycline solution made by emptying the contents of a 250 mg capsule into water.

Renal

Renal side effects have included increased BUN and Fanconi's syndrome. In patients with preexisting renal impairment, tetracycline may cause azotemia, hyperphosphatemia, and acidosis. Patients with dehydration are particularly vulnerable.

Renal side effects generally occurred in patients with preexisting renal disease and have been the result of accumulation of tetracycline. Increases in BUN commonly occur because of tetracycline's anti-anabolic effect but do not necessarily indicate renal dysfunction.

Fanconi's syndrome is characterized by renal glycosuria, phosphaturia, aminoaciduria, and acidosis with or without proteinuria and rickets. It is associated with the ingestion of outdated or degraded tetracycline. Additionally, previous formulations of tetracycline contained citric acid which may contribute to metabolic acidosis; however, current formulations of the drug do not. Patients generally require hospitalization with intravenous medication to correct the accompanying metabolic abnormalities. Most cases resolve over time after discontinuation of tetracycline without permanent sequelae. Patients should be instructed to discard any unused portions of tetracycline at the end of therapy and to never use tetracycline remaining from a previous prescription.

Dermatologic

Dermatologic side effects have included exfoliative dermatitis, maculopapular and erythematous rashes, nail discoloration, onycholysis, and photosensitivity.

Musculoskeletal

Tetracycline deposits into calcium-rich developing osseous tissue thereby causing the discoloration of permanent teeth, decreased rate of enamel growth, and a decrease in linear skeletal growth rate.

Musculoskeletal side effects have included adult tooth discoloration, enamel hypoplasia, and a decrease in linear skeletal growth rate. Tetracycline should not be administered to pregnant women or children less than 12 years of age.

Nervous system

There have been several cases of benign intracranial hypertension (pseudotumor cerebri) associated with tetracycline therapy. In most cases, the patient was female and was prescribed tetracycline to treat acne. Symptoms commonly occurring in these cases consisted of severe headaches, nausea, and blurred vision. Physical examination revealed papilledema in all cases, and several had significantly increased pressure on lumbar puncture. All patients recovered over time after discontinuation of tetracycline therapy. The mechanism for development of increased intracranial pressure is unknown.

Nervous system side effects have included benign intracranial hypertension (pseudotumor cerebri) in adults and bulging fontanels in infants.

Hematologic

At least two cases of tetracycline-induced hemolytic anemia have been reported. In both cases, the anemia resolved over time after discontinuation of the medication and reoccurred 1 to 2 years later following another course of tetracycline therapy. The mechanism for development of hemolytic anemia is unknown.

Hematologic side effects have included hemolytic anemia, thrombocytopenia, thrombocytopenic purpura, neutropenia, and eosinophilia.

Hypersensitivity

Hypersensitivity side effects have included urticaria, angioneurotic edema, anaphylaxis, anaphylactoid purpura, exacerbation of systemic lupus erythematosus, hypersensitivity myocarditis, and serum sickness-like reactions (fever, rash, arthralgia).

Hepatic

Hepatic side effects have included increased liver enzyme levels, hepatotoxicity, liver failure, and bile duct paucity with prolonged cholestasis. These may be dose-related.

Other

Other side effects have included superinfection due to overgrowth of resistant organisms. The long-term use of tetracyclines has been associated with microscopic brown-black discoloration of the thyroid gland; however, abnormal thyroid function has not been reported.

Metabolic

These metabolic side effects have occurred more commonly in the presence of preexisting renal disease, and occur as a result of the accumulation of tetracycline.

Metabolic side effects have included azotemia, hyperphosphatemia, and metabolic acidosis. Increases in serum BUN levels may occur as a result of the anti-anabolic action of tetracycline and not necessarily indicate renal disease.

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