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Ethambutol (EMB)

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What is Ethambutol (EMB)?

  • Ethambutol (EMB) is an antibiotic medicine taken with other medicines to cure tuberculosis (TB) disease.
  • TB bacteria are very strong and are hard to get rid of.
  • You will need to take this medicine for two or more months in order to destroy the TB bacteria. Your doctor will decide exactly how many months you will need to take the medicine.

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How do I take this medicine?

  • It is very important that you take the medicine every day at the same time or as instructed by your doctor.
  • Do not stop taking the medicine unless your doctor tells you to stop.
  • If you miss a dose, take it as soon as possible, but never take two doses at one time.
  • You may take the medicine with or without food.
  • Using antacids can decrease the absorption of EMB. Wait at least four hours after taking your EMB medicine before taking any antacids.
  • Store EMB in a cool, dry place (not in the bathroom). Keep it out of the reach of children.
  • Do not drink alcohol while taking EMB. You could damage your liver.

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What are some side effects I should watch for?

EMB may cause:

  • headache
  • aching joints
  • upset stomach
  • nausea and/or vomiting.

These side effects should disappear as your body adjusts to the medicine. Call your doctor right away if any of these side effects continue or worsen.

In addition call your doctor right away if any of the following appear while you are taking this medicine:

  • skin rash
  • itching
  • swelling
  • severe dizziness
  • trouble breathing
  • any problems with your eyes
  • trouble seeing red or green colours
  • confusion or hallucinations
  • fever
  • new cough
  • persistent nausea or vomiting
  • dark, pink or blood coloured urine
  • yellow eyes and skin
  • feeling of numbness, tingling, burning in hands or feet
  • stomach or abdominal pain
  • tiredness
  • muscle pain
  • swollen glands
  • chills
  • diarrhoea
  • bleed or bruise easily

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What else should I tell my doctor?

  • Tell your doctor about any health problems you may have before starting this medicine. This includes any problems you may have with your eyes.
  • Tell your doctor about any allergies you may have before starting this medicine.
  • Let your doctor know what medicine you are already taking, including over the counter medicine or herbal products.
  • Do not start or stop any medicine before talking to your doctor. This includes medicines you buy over the counter and herbal products.
  • Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant.
  • If you are breastfeeding, talk to your doctor before taking this medicine.

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Tips when taking your TB medicine

  • Take your medicine at the same time every day, for example:
    • Before going to bed.
    • First thing in the morning.
  • Use a weekly pill container.
  • Mark off each day you take your pills on a calendar.
  • Ask a family member or friend to remind you.
  • While you are taking this medicine, you will need to see your doctor regularly.
  • You will also need to have regular blood tests to check your liver function.
  • If you take this medicine for more than two months, you will have to have your eyes checked.
  • A nurse from the Health Department will contact you on a regular basis.

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Who do I talk to if I have questions about EMB?

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