Generic Name: gentamicin (jen-ta-MYE-sin)
Therapy has been associated with potential neurotoxicity, ototoxicity, and nephrotoxicity. Patients with impaired renal function, advanced age, dehydration, and those who receive high doses or prolonged therapy are at an increased risk of toxicity. Monitor renal and auditory function during therapy and discontinue therapy or adjust dose if there is evidence of ototoxicity or nephrotoxicity. Aminoglycoside-induced ototoxicity is usually irreversible. Serum concentrations of aminoglycosides should be monitored when feasible to assure adequate levels and to avoid potentially toxic levels. Concurrent use of other potentially neurotoxic or nephrotoxic agents, or potent diuretics should be avoided. Aminoglycosides can cause fetal harm when administered to a pregnant woman .
Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Oct 28, 2020.
Commonly used brand name(s)
In the U.S.
Available Dosage Forms:
Therapeutic Class: Antibiotic
Chemical Class: Aminoglycoside
Uses for gentamicin
Gentamicin injection is used to treat serious bacterial infections in many different parts of the body.
Gentamicin belongs to the class of medicines known as aminoglycoside antibiotics. It works by killing bacteria or preventing their growth. However, gentamicin will not work for colds, flu, or other virus infections.
Gentamicin injection is usually used for serious bacterial infections for which other medicines may not work. However, it may also cause some serious side effects, including damage to your kidneys and the part of your body that controls hearing. These side effects may be more likely to occur in elderly patients and newborn infants. You and your doctor should talk about the benefit of gentamicin as well as the risks.
Gentamicin is to be administered only by or under the immediate supervision of your doctor.
Before using gentamicin
In deciding to use a medicine, the risks of taking the medicine must be weighed against the good it will do. This is a decision you and your doctor will make. For gentamicin, the following should be considered:
Tell your doctor if you have ever had any unusual or allergic reaction to gentamicin or any other medicines. Also tell your health care professional if you have any other types of allergies, such as to foods, dyes, preservatives, or animals. For non-prescription products, read the label or package ingredients carefully.
Appropriate studies performed to date have not demonstrated pediatric-specific problems that would limit the usefulness of gentamicin injection in children. However, gentamicin should be used with caution in premature and newborn infants.
No information is available on the relationship of age to the effects of gentamicin injection in geriatric patients. However, elderly patients are more likely to have kidney problems, which may require caution and an adjustment in the dose for patients receiving gentamicin injection.
Studies in women suggest that this medication poses minimal risk to the infant when used during breastfeeding.
Interactions with medicines
Although certain medicines should not be used together at all, in other cases two different medicines may be used together even if an interaction might occur. In these cases, your doctor may want to change the dose, or other precautions may be necessary. When you are receiving gentamicin, it is especially important that your healthcare professional know if you are taking any of the medicines listed below. The following interactions have been selected on the basis of their potential significance and are not necessarily all-inclusive.
Using gentamicin with any of the following medicines is not recommended. Your doctor may decide not to treat you with this medication or change some of the other medicines you take.
Using gentamicin with any of the following medicines is usually not recommended, but may be required in some cases. If both medicines are prescribed together, your doctor may change the dose or how often you use one or both of the medicines.
- Agalsidase Alfa
- Cholera Vaccine, Live
- Colistimethate Sodium
- Ethacrynic Acid
Using gentamicin with any of the following medicines may cause an increased risk of certain side effects, but using both drugs may be the best treatment for you. If both medicines are prescribed together, your doctor may change the dose or how often you use one or both of the medicines.
Interactions with food/tobacco/alcohol
Certain medicines should not be used at or around the time of eating food or eating certain types of food since interactions may occur. Using alcohol or tobacco with certain medicines may also cause interactions to occur. Discuss with your healthcare professional the use of your medicine with food, alcohol, or tobacco.
Other medical problems
The presence of other medical problems may affect the use of gentamicin. Make sure you tell your doctor if you have any other medical problems, especially:
- Asthma or
- Sulfite allergy, history of—Gentamicin contains sodium metabisulfite which may cause an allergic reaction in patients with these conditions.
- Hypocalcemia (low calcium in the blood) or
- Hypokalemia (low potassium in the blood) or
- Hypomagnesemia (low magnesium in the blood)—Should be corrected before receiving gentamicin. If these conditions are not corrected, gentamicin may increase risk for more serious side effects.
- Kidney disease—Use with caution. The effects may be increased because of slower removal of gentamicin from the body.
- Kidney disease, severe or
- Muscle problems or
- Myasthenia gravis (severe muscle weakness) or
- Nerve problems—Use with caution. May make these conditions worse.
Proper use of gentamicin
A nurse or other trained health professional will give you gentamicin. Gentamicin is given as a shot into a muscle or into a vein.
To help clear up your infection completely, keep using gentamicin for the full time of treatment, even if you begin to feel better after a few days. Also, gentamicin works best when there is a constant amount in the blood. To help keep the amount constant, you must receive gentamicin on a regular schedule.
To keep your kidneys working well and help prevent kidney problems, drink extra fluids so you will pass more urine while you or your child are receiving gentamicin.
Precautions while using gentamicin
Your doctor will check your progress closely while you or your child are receiving gentamicin. This will allow your doctor to see if the medicine is working properly and to decide if you or your child should continue to receive it. Blood, urine, hearing, and nerve tests may be needed to check for unwanted effects.
If your or your child's symptoms do not improve within a few days, or if they become worse, check with your doctor.
Using gentamicin while you are pregnant can harm your unborn baby. Use an effective form of birth control to keep from getting pregnant. If you think you have become pregnant while using the medicine, tell your doctor right away.
Gentamicin may cause serious allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening and require immediate medical attention. Call your doctor right away if you or your child have itching; hives; hoarseness; shortness of breath; trouble breathing; trouble swallowing; or any swelling of your hands, face, or mouth after you receive gentamicin.
Stop using gentamicin and check with your doctor right away if you or your child have sudden decrease in hearing or loss of hearing, which may be accompanied by dizziness and ringing in the ears. Tell your doctor if you or your child have dizziness or lightheadedness; feeling of constant movement of self or surroundings; or sensation of spinning. These may be symptoms of a damage to your hearing or sense of balance.
Check with your doctor right away if you or your child have blood in the urine, change in frequency of urination or amount of urine, difficulty with breathing, drowsiness, increased thirst, loss of appetite, nausea or vomiting, swelling of feet or lower legs, or weakness. These may be symptoms of a serious kidney problem (e.g., Fanconi-like syndrome).
Gentamicin may cause nerve problems. Check with your doctor right away if you or your child have numbness, skin tingling, muscle twitching, or convulsions.
Make sure your doctor knows that you are using gentamicin before having a surgery or other procedures that require you to receive a numbing medicine (e.g., anesthetics, neuromuscular blocking agents). Using gentamicin injection together with numbing medicines may increase your risk of having difficulty in breathing, drowsiness, inability to breath without assistance, or unusual tiredness or weakness.
Do not take other medicines unless they have been discussed with your doctor. This includes prescription or nonprescription (over-the-counter [OTC]) medicines and herbal or vitamin supplements.
Gentamicin side effects
Along with its needed effects, a medicine may cause some unwanted effects. Although not all of these side effects may occur, if they do occur they may need medical attention.
Check with your doctor or nurse immediately if any of the following side effects occur:
Incidence not known
- Abdominal or stomach cramps or pain
- back pain
- black, tarry stools
- blood in the urine
- blurred or double vision
- burning, numbness, tingling, or painful sensations
- change in frequency of urination or amount of urine
- chest pain
- continuing ringing or buzzing or other unexplained noise in the ears
- difficult or troubled breathing
- difficulty with swallowing
- dizziness, faintness, or lightheadedness when getting up suddenly from a lying or sitting position
- dry mouth
- eye pain
- fast heartbeat
- fever with or without chills
- hearing loss
- increased thirst
- irregular heartbeats
- irregular, fast or slow, or shallow breathing
- joint pain
- loss of appetite
- mood or mental changes
- muscle cramps in the hands, arms, feet, legs, or face
- muscle pain or weakness
- muscle spasms (tetany) or twitching
- nausea or vomiting
- numbness and tingling around the mouth, fingertips, or feet
- pale or blue lips, fingernails, or skin
- pale skin
- pinpoint red spots on the skin
- puffiness or swelling of the eyelids or around the eyes, face, lips, or tongue
- right upper abdominal or stomach pain and fullness
- sensation of spinning
- skin rash
- slow or fast heartbeat
- slow or irregular breathing
- sore throat
- sores, ulcers, or white spots on the lips or in the mouth
- stiff neck
- swelling of the feet or lower legs
- swollen glands
- tightness in the chest
- unusual bleeding or bruising
- unusual tiredness or weakness
- weight chest discomfort
- weight loss
Some side effects may occur that usually do not need medical attention. These side effects may go away during treatment as your body adjusts to the medicine. Also, your health care professional may be able to tell you about ways to prevent or reduce some of these side effects. Check with your health care professional if any of the following side effects continue or are bothersome or if you have any questions about them:
Incidence not known
- Blurred or loss of vision
- decreased appetite
- disturbed color perception
- hair loss or thinning of the hair
- halos around lights
- hives or welts
- increased salivation
- night blindness
- overbright appearance of lights
- pain at the injection site
- purple spots on the skin
- redness of the skin
- swelling or inflammation of the mouth
- tunnel vision
- unusual drowsiness, dullness, tiredness, weakness, or feeling of sluggishness
Other side effects not listed may also occur in some patients. If you notice any other effects, check with your healthcare professional.
Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.
More about gentamicin
- Side Effects
- During Pregnancy or Breastfeeding
- Dosage Information
- Drug Interactions
- Compare Alternatives
- Pricing & Coupons
- En Español
- Drug class: aminoglycosides
- FDA Alerts (1)
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