Adverse effects of TB medicines

TB medicines have adverse effects. If you notice some worrying symptoms, tell about your observations to the nurse or doctor.

Most of adverse effects are mild and they disappear when medication is continued or there is a way to ease them. In average one out of ten persons who get treatment for TB has more severe adverse effects. In such cases medication might have to be temporarily interrupted.

Use of TB medicines and certain other medicines at the same time must be taken in consideration by the doctor. Therefore it is important that the doctor knows all the medicines you are taking (medicines for diabetes, medicines to prevent blood clots, birth control pills etc).

Mild adverse effects are common and a nuisance but they should not prevent continuation of medication. Tell about your symptoms to the persons in charge of your treatment, so they will try to find a way to ease them. Mild adverse effects are:

  • Orange colored urine, saliva or tears. This is caused by rifampicin. Also contact lenses may be colored, thus you are not allowed to use them when you are getting rifampicin treatment.
  • Redness and itching of the skin in sunlight. Part of TB medicines makes the skin sensitive to sunlight. Your doctor will advise you to use sun screen lotion or to protect your skin with clothes.
  • Nausea, diarrhea and loss of appetite are very common adverse effects, they usually pass after a few weeks as TB medication is continued. Strong and continuous nausea can be treated with medicines.
  • Mild pain in upper abdomen. This can be treated with medicines.
  • Mild ache in joints. This can be treated with pain killers and physical therapy.
  • Mild headache. This can be treated with pain killers.
  • Sleep disorders, depression. These can be treated with medicines.

Serious adverse effects are rare but when they appear, taking of medicine causing them must be discontinued at least temporarily. Take immediately contact with the persons in charge of your treatment if you observe any of the following symptoms:

  • Vomiting and severe abdominal ache
  • Color of the skin or of white parts of the eye turn yellow. These symptoms may be due to hepatitis caused by TB drugs. During the treatment, liver functions are followed regularly through blood tests
  • Fever and skin rash are signs of a severe allergic reaction
  • Severe pain in joints or muscles, which prevent movement
  • Dizziness
  • Tinnitus or hearing problems (deterioration of hearing)
  • Reduction of the amount of urine, color of urine becomes very dark
  • Deterioration of vision
  • Seizure
  • Hallucinations (seeing or hearing strange things)
  • Suicidal thoughts, strong mood changes
  • Bleeding of gums or nose

Adverse effects of TB medicines can be prevented to some degree. E.g. isoniazid-medicine often causes peripheral neuropathy, signs of which are numbness, aching or tingling sensation of hands and feet. These adverse effects are prevented with vitamin B6.

Use of alcohol during TB treatment increases the risk of hepatitis. For this reason it is important, that you do not use at all alcohol during the treatment.