Levaquin (Levofloxacin): Uses, Side Effects, Dosage

By Zina Semenovskaya, MD
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
December 21, 2021

Levaquin is a brand-name version of levofloxacin, a strong antibiotic used for treating several different infections, including pneumonia.

Levaquin is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and is one of a class of antibiotics called fluoroquinolones.

These drugs work by killing bacteria in the body. You should only take Levaquin when it is prescribed, and only as directed by your doctor or pharmacist.

In this article, I’ll give more details about Levaquin, including its uses, side effects, and dosage. I’ll also provide some precautions to take when taking this medication.

What is Levaquin?

Levaquin is a prescription medication for treating bacterial infections.

It is the brand-name version of a medication called levofloxacin.

Levaquin will not work for viral infections, such as the common cold or flu.

Levofloxacin is in a class of drugs known as fluoroquinolone antibiotics.

These antibiotics work by killing harmful bacteria. It is not an over-the-counter medicine, and needs to be prescribed by your healthcare provider.

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Levaquin Uses

Your health care provider may prescribe you Levaquin if you have been diagnosed with any of the following medical conditions:

Pneumonia

Pneumonia is a serious infection of the lungs.

If you have pneumonia, the air sacs of one or both lungs become inflamed and may fill with liquid or pus.

This causes difficulty breathing.

Pneumonia can be caused by bacteria, fungi, viruses, or chemical irritants.

Common symptoms of pneumonia include trouble breathing, a wet cough, fever, and chills.

If you are diagnosed with bacterial pneumonia, you may be prescribed Levaquin to treat it.

Kidney Infections

If you have a kidney infection, the bacteria have most likely come from your lower urinary tract, such as your bladder or urethra.

Symptoms of a kidney infection include one-sided or bilateral flank or lower back pain, nausea, fever, and chills.

If you have these symptoms and a serious kidney infection is diagnosed, Levaquin is one common antibiotic that can be used to treat it.. 

Prostate Infections

If you are having pain in your lower abdomen or pelvis, have urinary symptoms such as pain with urination, increased urgency or frequency, and cloudy or bloody urine, you may have a prostate infection.

Prostate infections (also called prostatitis) are caused by bacteria, and need to be treated with antibiotics.

The antibiotic prescribed and the duration of treatment will depend on the type of bacteria causing your infection.

Skin Infections

If your skin is red, tender, scaly, or swollen, you may be suffering from a skin infection.

Some skin infections, such as cellulitis, require either topical or oral antibiotic treatment.

For severe skin infections, a fluoroquinolone such as Levaquin may be appropriate.

Bronchitis

Viruses are responsible for approximately 90% of acute bronchitis cases.

But in certain situations, antibiotics may be necessary.

Levaquin is an effective treatment for severe, persistent upper respiratory tract infections when a bacterial infection is suspected, such as when there is colored sputum or if a person has certain high-risk underlying medical conditions.

How to Use Levaquin

Levaquin is available in tablets, oral solution, and as an injection taken once every 24 hours with dosages coming in various strengths.

Always read the medication label and only take the medication as prescribed by your healthcare provider.

Dosage

Take the full prescribed amount as directed by your health care provider to avoid reinfection and bacterial resistance.

Several factors may influence the dosage and duration of your treatment with Levaquin.

There include:

  • Type and severity of your infection
  • Your weight
  • Your age
  • Pre-existing medical conditions, such as kidney problems

Dosage may not remain the same for your full duration of antibiotic treatment.

Your doctor may start you on a low dose and adjust accordingly.

Take Levaquin at a regularly scheduled time daily for the full duration of your course, unless told otherwise by your doctor.

Oral dosage comes in three strengths: 250 mg, 500 mg, and 750 mg.

Levaquin can be taken with or without meals. 

What happens if I miss a dose?

If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you remember.

Do not double up doses. If it is less than eight hours until your next single dose, continue your regular dosing schedule and skip your missed dose. 

What happens if I take too much?

If you or someone else is experiencing serious side effects from levofloxacin, such as difficulty breathing, passing out, or dizziness, stop taking the medicine immediately.

Call 9-1-1 or a poison control center immediately.

For U.S. residents, their local poison control center contact number is 1-800-222-1222.

Side Effects of Levaquin

Levaquin can cause side effects that may be serious.

Before taking this drug, discuss your medical history with your healthcare provider.

Possible side effects when taking levofloxacin include:

In addition to the above more common side effects, Levaquin has been linked to more severe, long lasting side effects:

  • Tendon rupture or inflammation: This damage to your tendons can happen at any age, but the risk is greater in patients over the age of 60, patients who are taking steroids (corticosteroids), or have a kidney, heart, or lung transplant. Tendon rupture can occur while taking Levaquin or several months after you have finished taking this drug.
  • Peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage): This drug can cause damage to the nerves in your arms, hands, legs, or feet. The damage may lead to changes in sensation, and these changes can be permanent.
  • Central nervous system effects: This could include convulsions, psychosis, increased pressure inside your head, agitation, anxiety, tremors, confusion, delirium, and hallucinations. In extreme cases, it may cause suicidal thoughts.

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you may be having a more serious adverse reaction to Levaquin and should stop taking it immediately:

Precautions When Taking Levaquin

Before taking Levaquin, discuss your medical history with your doctor and inform them if you are taking any prescription or over-the-counter medications, including vitamins and supplements.

Drug interactions have been reported with levofloxacin, meaning that this drug can interfere with how other drugs work or increase their side effects.

Talk to your doctor if you have diabetes, kidney problems, a heart condition, or myasthenia gravis.

Do not take this drug if you have had an allergic reaction to it or to any other fluoroquinolones.

Discuss this with your health care provider so they can help find the right medical treatment for you.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is Levaquin prescribed for?
Levaquin is used to treat a variety of bacterial infections by killing off harmful bacteria. You may be prescribed Levaquin for pneumonia, bronchitis, or kidney infections.
What are the bad side effects of Levaquin?
Levaquin can cause side effects including tendon problems (tendonitis), nerve damage, and serious mood and behavior changes.
Is Levaquin stronger than amoxicillin?
Both Levaquin and amoxicillin are “strong” antibiotics, and both are used to treat infections of the lungs, airways, skin, urinary tract, and ears. However, Levaquin belongs to the fluoroquinolone class of antibiotics, while amoxicillin is a penicillin type of antibiotic.
Are Levaquin and Cipro the same?
No. Cipro (ciprofloxacin) and Levaquin (levofloxacin) are both fluoroquinolone antibiotics that treat bacterial infections by inhibiting their growth. However, they are not the same. Levaquin is relatively more expensive than Cipro (ciprofloxacin), and the two drugs may be prescribed for different types of infections. The right treatment for you will depend on which bacterial infection is being treated.

K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Zina Semenovskaya, MD

Dr. Semenovskaya specializes in emergency medicine, and received her medical degree from Weill Cornell Medical College. She is currently the medical director at Remote Emergency Medicine Consulting, LLC and splits her time working clinically as an emergency medicine attending in California and Alaska. She is the first of our doctors to be fluent in Russian.