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Ethambutol

INFORMATION

Uses

Ethambutol is used in the treatment of tuberculosis (TB).

How it works

Ethambutol belongs to a class of anti-tuberculosis drugs. It suppresses the growth of tuberculosis causing bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis). Ethambutol enters the growing bacteria and kills the bacteria by inhibiting an important enzyme arabinosyl tranferases involved in the formation of the outer protective covering of the bacteria called cell wall.

Common side effects

Tingling sensation of extremity, Numbness of extremity, Abnormal liver function tests, Altered vision, Blurred vision, Color blindness, Rash, Itching, Loss of appetite, Stomach upset, Vomiting

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Expert advice

Do consult your doctor before taking ethambutol if you have any eye problems such as cataracts (disturbed vision due to clouding of eye lenses) , recurrent inflammatory conditions of the eye, optic neuritis (inflammation of nerve fibers that transmit visual information from your eye to the brain), and diabetic retinopathy (a complication of eye due to diabetes). Ethambutol can cause serious eye damage. Regular eye checkups are recommended while on treatment with ethambutol.
Do consult your doctor before taking ethambutol:
  • If you have kidney problems.
  • If you have liver problems.
  • If you have gout (pain, swelling, redness and stiffness in joints due to accumulation of uric acid).
Ethambutol is not recommended for use in children aged below 3 years.
Do consult your doctor before taking ethambutol if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant.
Do consult your doctor before taking ethambutol if you are breastfeeding.
Do not stop taking ethambutol without consulting your doctor. If you forget to take a dose of ethambutol, take it as soon as you remember. Do not double the dose to make up for the missed dose.

Frequently asked questions

Ethambutol

Q.Does ethambutol cause blindness?
Optic neuritis (inflammation of nerve fibers that transmit visual information from your eye to the brain) is one of the side effects of ethambutol which causes several forms of eye defect. Although these conditions are reversible upon discontinuation of the drug, rare cases of irreversible blindness have also been reported. Please contact your doctor immediately if you notice any of these symptoms: decreased clearness of vision, loss of vision, disturbed vision due to blind spots, color blindness, visual field defect and eye pain

Q.Does ethambutol induce hyperuricemia/how does ethambutol induce hyperuricemia?
Yes. Increase in blood levels of uric acid is a side effect of ethambutol. It increases the retention of uric acid in the body by decreasing the excretion of urates (uric acid) by the kidneys

Q.How does ethambutol work in the body?
Ethambutol is an antibiotic effective against tuberculosis causing bacteria. It suppresses the growth of the bacteria by interfering with the formation of the outer protective covering (cell wall) of the bacteria, thereby weakening the bacteria

Q.What is ethambutol toxicity/How does ethambutol cause optic neuritis/how does ethambutol affect vision?
Ethambutol toxicity involves toxic effects on the eyes (optic neuritis/optic neuropathy) which are related to the dose and duration of ethambutol treatment. It causes optic neuritis (inflammation of nerve fibers in the eye) by interfering with important cellular activities (mitochondrial toxicity) in the nerve cells and inducing nerve damage (neuropathy) thereby affecting the transmission of visual information from the eye to brain. The symptoms of ethambutol induced optic neuritis include: decreased clearness of vision, loss of vision, disturbed vision due to blind spots, color blindness, visual field defect and eye pain

Q.What does ethambutol treat?
Ethambutol is an antibiotic effective against tuberculosis causing bacteria. It is used in the prevention, treatment and second time treatment of tuberculosis (a serious infection caused by bacteria that affects the lungs and in certain cases other parts of the body)

Q.Is ethambutol bacteriostatic or bactericidal?
Ethambutol is both a bacteriostatic and a bactericidal antibiotic. It suppresses the growth of bacteria (bacteriostatic) by interfering with the formation of the outer protective covering (cell wall) of the bacteria, thereby weakening it and causing cell death in certain cases (bactericidal)

Q.Is ethambutol hepatotoxic?
Liver toxicities are among the known side effects of ethambutol. Inflammation of liver (hepatitis), abnormal liver function causing yellowing of skin and eyes (jaundice), abnormal liver function tests (blood tests to assess health of liver) and very rarely liver failure have been noted in patients receiving multi drug (including ethambutol) treatment for tuberculosis. Please contact your doctor before taking ethambutol if you have any liver problems

Q.Is ethambutol toxicity reversible?
In most cases ethambutol toxicities are related to dose (depends upon the quantity of ethambutol you take) and duration of treatment and are reversible upon discontinuation. However, serious irreversible damage to eye and liver has been reported in rare cases

Q.Is ethambutol chemotherapy?
Ethambutol is an antibiotic used in the treatment of tuberculosis. Do not confuse it with chemotherapy or chemo drugs used for the treatment of cancer

Q.Ethambutol is effective against?
Ethambutol is effective against most tuberculosis causing bacteria belonging to Mycobacterium family (M. tuberculosis, M. avium complex, M. kansasii, M. marinum).


Content on this page was last updated on 02 December, 2016, by Dr. Varun Gupta (MD Pharmacology)