Side Effects of Sulfa Drugs

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Sulfa drugs are a fairly common treatment for bacterial and fungal infections, and they're one of the oldest drugs still available on the market. They were first discovered in 1935 by Gerhard Domagk in Germany. Today, the sulfa drugs that are being used are: Thiosulfil Forte, Azulfadine, Gantanol, and Gantrisin. They come in different strengths of these drugs (double-strength, half-strength, etc.) and are available in generic forms as well. If you haven't had a sulfa drug before, you may be prescribed one sometime in your life, since they are so common. And as with any prescription medication, it's important to be aware of the side effects.

How Sulfa Drugs Work

There aren't currently any antibiotics that can stop viral infections. But there are plenty that can kill bacterial infections. And that's exactly what sulfa drugs do. Certain bacteria mistake the sulfa for a vitamin which they need to eat to survive. They consume the sulfa instead of a vitamin, and since they are now lacking in the vitamin they require for survival, they fail to multiply and soon die off.


Azulfadine, or Sulfasalazine, is commonly used to treat ulcerative colitis (ulcers in the colon or rectum) and for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. The common side effects of Azulfadine are: nausea, vomiting, gastric discomfort, loss of appetite, and a change of color in the urine or skin. If you're allergic, you may experience the development of a rash that may require medical attention. You could also experience heavy fatigue, aching joints and muscles, and a fever. In rare circumstances, severe allergic reactions include a drop in white or red blood cell count which can result in easy bruising, unusual bleeding, and chronic fatigue.


Today, sulfamethoxazole is used to fight bacteria, but due to the fact that most people have become immune to it, it's usually used in conjunction with trimethoprim to create Bactrim. It can help to treat chlamydia, malaria, and urinary tract infections (UTI's). Some of the side effects are the same as Azulfadine, including loss of appetite, the development of a rash, and gastric discomfort. But with sulfamethoxazole, you can also experience dizziness, headache, and diarrhea. In rare cases, it can also cause a drop in red and white blood cell count,and anemia. Since it's also known to cause crystals to form in the kidneys, it's important to drink lots of fluids to prevent blood in the urine and kidney damage.

Thiosulfil Forte

Thiosulfil Forte, like all other sulfa drugs, is used to treat bacterial infections. Thiosulfil Forte has also been known to cause problems with the blood, which can cause a greater risk of infection, slower healing, and bleeding gums. So it's important to be careful when you brush your teeth and floss. It also very commonly causes photosensitivity, which means you could get a rash from being out in real or artificial sunlight for even short periods of time. Rarely patients taking Thiosulfil Forte can experience blood in their urine or stool, severe abdominal cramps, mood changes, swelling on the front of their neck, increased thirst, and lower back pain.


Gantrisin is a sulfa drug administered to children for long-term urinary tract infections. It can also be used to treat meningitis, and is sometimes prescribed as a preventive measure for children who have come in contact with meningitis. Occassionally, Gantrisin is used to treat a middle ear infection in children, as well. Side effects can include: abdominal pain or bleeding, swelling of the face (lips, tongue, or throat), anxiety, bluish discoloration of the skin, depression, diarrhea, fatigue, ringing in the ears, insomnia, vertigo, vomiting, nauseousness, swelling, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, low blood sugar, skin rash, photosensitivity, shortness of breath, yellow eyes, lack of muscular coordination, bruising, and anorexia. If any of these symptoms, or any other symptoms of concern, arise, speak with your doctor immediately.

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