Amiodarone Side Effects

by on July 22, 2011


Common side effects of Amiodarone include dizziness, weakness, loss of appetite, tingling sensation in the hands, skin discoloration, insomnia, and nausea.  More serious side effects can include difficulty breathing, hives, vision loss, chest pain, and migraines, as well as pulmonary fibrosis and liver damage in the most extreme cases.

Common Amiodarone Side Effects

Common side effects of amiodarone include the following:

  • Dizziness, weakness, or fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Tingling sensation the skin
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Lack of coordination
  • Skin discoloration (skin may turn a bluish-gray color after long-term use)
  • Thyroid problems

Research shows that almost every patient taking the drug will experience at least one of these side effects.

Serious Amiodarone Side Effects

More serious side effects of amiodarone can indicate an allergic reaction. If ignored, an allergic reaction signaled by these side effects can cause a patient to go into anaphylactic shock, which can be fatal. Anyone experiencing the following symptoms should immediately contact their physician:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swelling of the face or throat
  • Hives
  • Pounding or increasingly irregular heartbeat
  • Chest pain
  • Coughing up blood
  • Blurred vision or vision loss
  • Migraine headaches
  • Jaundice

While some of these side effects can manifest soon after beginning treatment, it is possible for them to appear months after a patient starts taking amiodarone (and even months after treatment ends), so it important for individuals to closely monitor themselves after discontinuing use of the drug.

Side Effects on the Body's Organs

Amiodarone can cause a number of serious side effects pertaining to the body’s major organs. One of these is interstitial lung disease (one of the more rare side effects), which usually occurs in older patients with preexisting conditions. Pulmonary fibrosis may also develop in the lungs, sometimes as soon as a week after treatment has begun. Hepatitis (liver inflammation) is also a possible side effect. Those who take amiodarone for over 6 months are also likely to develop small corneal deposits in the eye, which can cause vision to be blurred by a bluish spot.


Generally, men and women experience similar common side effects of amiodarone. However, in some cases amiodarone has been found to trigger epididymitis in men, which is an inflammation of the scrotal tissue. Additionally, some men have also reported gynecomastia (an abnormal development of mammary glands) as a result of taking amiodarone. Both of these rare conditions can be addressed by discontinuing use of amiodarone.

Women and Children

Little conclusive evidence has been drawn regarding the effects of amiodarone during the gestational stage. Because of this, taking amiodarone is not advisable for women who are pregnant, since the drug may possible cause birth defects. Women who are breastfeeding should not take amiodarone, since the benzyl alcohol present in the drug may induce what is called “gasping syndrome” in newborns, which is often fatal. This syndrome is characterized by gasping breaths, an increase in the body’s acidity level, and neurological deterioration.

Weight Side Effects

Rapid weight loss and weight gain are associated with serious allergic reactions to amiodarone, so individuals experiencing large weight fluctuations in a very short period of time should contact their physician. It is also not uncommon for individuals to develop hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism as a result of taking amiodarone. This condition can also cause weight fluctuations, but will likely develop more slowly (generally over the course of six months after beginning treatment). It may be necessary for these patients to then take thyroid medication.

In addition to pregnant women, amiodarone is not recommended for those who have been diagnosed with clogged arteries, abnormally low heart rate, a preexisting respiratory condition, or those who have been fitted with a pacemaker. Though the drug comes with a long list of side effects, it is safe for use so long as patients are closely monitored; in fact, those embarking on treatment are usually required to be hospitalized for at least a week.