Colchicine Oral Tablet Side Effects: How to Manage Them

If you have gout or an inherited condition called familial Mediterranean fever (FMF), you may be interested in learning more about colchicine. It’s a generic prescription drug used to:

  • treat gout symptoms in adults
  • help prevent flare-ups of gout symptoms in adults
  • help prevent episodes of FMF in adults and some children

For gout, you may take colchicine on a short-term or long-term basis. For FMF, you’ll typically take colchicine as a long-term treatment.

Colchicine comes as tablets that you swallow. It also comes as capsules that you swallow. But this article only covers the tablet form of colchicine, not the capsules.

This article describes colchicine’s side effects (also called adverse effects). For more information about colchicine, including details about its uses, see this in-depth article.

Some people may experience mild to serious side effects during their colchicine treatment. Examples of colchicine’s more commonly reported side effects include:

* To learn more about this side effect, see the “Side effects explained” section below.

Examples of mild side effects that have been reported with colchicine include:

* To learn more about this side effect, see the “Side effects explained” section below.
† An allergic reaction is possible after using colchicine. But this side effect wasn’t reported in studies.

In most cases, these side effects should be temporary. And some may be easily managed. But if you have any symptoms that are ongoing or bother you, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. And do not stop taking colchicine unless your doctor recommends it.

Colchicine may cause mild side effects other than the ones listed above. See the drug’s prescribing information for details.

Serious side effects that have been reported with colchicine include:

  • nerve damage that causes numbness or tingling in your fingers or toes
  • rhabdomyolysis*
  • blood disorders*
  • severe allergic reaction*†

If you develop serious side effects while taking colchicine, call your doctor right away. If the side effects seem life threatening or you think you’re having a medical emergency, immediately call 911 or your local emergency number.

* To learn more about this side effect, see the “Side effects explained” section below.
† An allergic reaction is possible after using colchicine. But this side effect wasn’t reported in studies.

Note: After the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves a drug, it tracks side effects of the medication. If you’d like to notify the FDA about a side effect you’ve had with colchicine, visit MedWatch.

Get answers to some frequently asked questions about colchicine’s side effects.

Does colchicine cause any side effects related to the kidneys or liver?

Yes, colchicine can cause certain side effects that could affect your kidneys or liver.

For example, if you have severe diarrhea or vomiting, you may become dehydrated. Dehydration can lead to kidney problems, which could raise your risk of side effects with colchicine.

Colchicine can also cause rhabdomyolysis, which is a breakdown of muscle cells. This side effect can lead to kidney damage if it’s not treated. To learn more about these side effects, see “Colchicine’s side effects explained” below.

There have also been reports of raised liver enzymes in people taking colchicine since the drug became available for use. Raised liver enzymes could be a sign of liver damage. But it’s unclear how often this has happened or whether colchicine was the cause.

Colchicine is cleared from your body by your liver and kidneys. If you have liver or kidney problems, colchicine could build up in your body. This could raise your risk of the side effects noted above, as well as other side effects of colchicine. If you have liver or kidney problems, your doctor may prescribe a lower dosage of colchicine for you.

If you’re concerned about how colchicine may affect your liver or kidneys, talk with your doctor.

Does the risk of side effects with colchicine vary depending on my dosage (such as 0.6 mg vs. 1.2 mg)?

It’s possible. As with many medications, higher dosages of colchicine may be more likely to cause side effects than lower dosages.

Other factors can also affect your risk of side effects with colchicine. These include your age, other conditions you have, and other medications you take.

If you’re concerned about your risk of side effects with the colchicine dosage you’ve been prescribed, talk with your doctor.

Does colchicine cause weight loss or weight gain?

No, colchicine isn’t known to cause weight loss or weight gain. These side effects weren’t reported in studies of the drug.

Colchicine can cause digestive side effects such as nausea, diarrhea, and belly pain. Your appetite may be reduced if you have these side effects, which in some cases could lead to weight loss.

If you’re concerned about changes in weight with colchicine, talk with your doctor.

Does colchicine cause any long-term side effects?

It’s possible, but this is rare. Most of colchicine’s side effects go away in a few days or weeks, or soon after you stop taking the medication.

But there have been some reports of rhabdomyolysis (breakdown of damaged muscle) in people taking colchicine. If you develop this side effect, it could take several months after stopping colchicine for your symptoms to get better. This side effect could also cause long-term kidney problems. Taking colchicine for a long period of time may raise your risk of rhabdomyolysis.

To learn more about rhabdomyolysis, see “Colchicine’s side effects explained” below.

If you’re concerned about long-term side effects with colchicine, talk with your doctor.

Is hair loss a side effect of colchicine?

It’s possible. Hair loss wasn’t reported in studies of colchicine. There have been some reports of hair loss since the drug became available for use, but it’s unclear how often this has happened or whether colchicine was the cause.

If you have hair loss or hair thinning that bothers you with colchicine, talk with your doctor. They can try to determine the cause and suggest ways to manage hair loss.

Learn more about some of the side effects colchicine may cause.

Diarrhea

Some people may have diarrhea while taking colchicine. In studies, diarrhea was a common side effect reported by people taking colchicine.

Diarrhea is usually mild, but it can sometimes be severe. And if you don’t replace the fluids you lose with diarrhea, this can lead to serious problems.

Losing more fluids than usual can make you dehydrated. Dehydration can lead to kidney problems. If you develop kidney problems while taking colchicine, the medication could build up in your body. This could raise your risk of side effects.

What might help

If you have diarrhea while taking colchicine, it’s important to replace the fluids you’re losing. Drink plenty of fluids, especially after each bowel movement. You can drink plain water, but it can also be helpful to drink a rehydration solution, such as Pedialyte, or a sports drink, such as Gatorade. These help replace electrolytes (minerals such as sodium) that you can lose with diarrhea.

If you have diarrhea that’s severe or doesn’t go away in a few days, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. They may recommend taking a medication such as loperamide (Imodium) to treat the diarrhea. Your doctor may also have you stop taking colchicine.

Rhabdomyolysis

Colchicine may cause a serious, possibly life threatening side effect called rhabdomyolysis. With this condition, you have a breakdown of damaged muscles in your body. This can lead to a buildup of protein in your bloodstream, which may cause kidney damage.

It’s not known how often rhabdomyolysis occurs with colchicine. You may have a higher risk of this side effect if you’re age 65 years or older, have kidney or liver problems, or take certain medications with colchicine.

Symptoms of rhabdomyolysis can include:

What might help

Before taking colchicine, tell your doctor if you have a kidney or liver problem. They may prescribe a dosage of the drug that’s lower than usual. Doing so could help lower your risk of rhabdomyolysis.

To avoid interactions that can raise your risk of rhabdomyolysis, tell your doctor about any other medications, herbs, or supplements you take before starting colchicine. While taking colchicine, always check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any new medications, herbs, or supplements.

You should avoid drinking grapefruit juice and eating grapefruit while taking colchicine. Consuming grapefruit can cause colchicine to build up in your body, which can raise your risk of rhabdomyolysis.

If you have symptoms of rhabdomyolysis while taking colchicine, speak with your doctor right away. This condition can be life threatening if it’s not treated quickly. Your doctor will likely have you stop taking colchicine.

Blood disorders

Colchicine may cause serious blood disorders. For example, it may cause low levels of red blood cells, white blood cells, or platelets (cells that help with blood clotting).

It’s not known how often blood disorders occur with colchicine, but they are rare.

Symptoms of blood disorders may include:

  • fatigue
  • dizziness
  • frequent infections
  • fever
  • bruising easily
  • unusual bleeding, such as nosebleeds, bleeding gums, or bleeding that takes longer than usual to stop

What might help

If you have any of the symptoms listed above while taking colchicine, speak with your doctor right away. They will likely do a blood test to check your blood cells. In some cases, they may have you stop taking colchicine.

Allergic reaction

Like most drugs, colchicine can cause an allergic reaction in some people. But this side effect wasn’t reported in studies.

Symptoms can be mild to serious and can include:

  • skin rash
  • itchiness
  • flushing (temporary warmth, redness, or deepening of skin color)
  • swelling under your skin, usually in your eyelids, lips, hands, or feet
  • swelling of your mouth, tongue, or throat, which can make it hard to breathe

What might help

If you have mild symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as a mild rash, call your doctor right away. They may suggest a treatment to manage your symptoms. Examples include:

  • an antihistamine you take by mouth, such as Benadryl (diphenhydramine)
  • a product you apply to your skin, such as hydrocortisone cream

If your doctor confirms you’ve had a mild allergic reaction to colchicine, they’ll decide whether you should continue using it.

If you have symptoms of a severe allergic reaction, such as swelling or trouble breathing, call 911 or your local emergency number right away. These symptoms could be life threatening and require immediate medical care.

If your doctor confirms you’ve had a serious allergic reaction to colchicine, they may have you switch to a different treatment.

Keeping track of side effects

During your colchicine treatment, consider taking notes on any side effects you’re having. You can then share this information with your doctor. This is especially helpful when you first start taking new drugs or using a combination of treatments.

Your side effect notes can include things such as:

  • what dose of the drug you were taking when you had the side effect
  • how soon you had the side effect after starting that dose
  • what your symptoms were
  • how it affected your daily activities
  • what other medications you were taking
  • any other information you feel is important

Keeping notes and sharing them with your doctor will help them learn more about how colchicine affects you. They can then use this information to adjust your treatment plan if needed.

Colchicine may not be right for you if you have certain medical conditions. These are known as drug-condition interactions. Other factors may also affect whether colchicine is a good treatment option for you.

Talk with your doctor about your health history before starting colchicine. Factors to consider include those described below.

Kidney problems. Colchicine is removed from your body by your kidneys. If you have kidney problems, colchicine could build up in your body. This could raise your risk of serious side effects, especially rhabdomyolysis. (To learn more about this side effect, see “Colchicine’s side effects explained” above.)

Due to the risk of side effects, your doctor will likely prescribe a lower dosage of colchicine if you have kidney problems.

Liver problems. Colchicine is broken down by your liver. If you have liver problems, colchicine could build up in your body. This could raise your risk of serious side effects. Due to this risk, your doctor may prescribe a dosage of colchicine that’s lower than usual.

Other medications. Taking colchicine with certain other medications can cause colchicine to build up in your body, especially if you have liver or kidney problems. This can raise your risk of serious, even life threatening side effects.

Due to this risk, if you have liver or kidney problems and take certain medications, your doctor may not prescribe colchicine. Before starting colchicine treatment, tell your doctor about any other medications you take. While taking colchicine, always check with your doctor or pharmacist before starting any new medications.

Allergic reaction. If you’ve had an allergic reaction to colchicine or any of its ingredients, your doctor will likely not prescribe colchicine. Ask them what other medications are better options for you.

Alcohol and colchicine

Colchicine isn’t known to interact with alcohol. But drinking alcohol while taking colchicine could raise your risk of certain side effects, such as headache, nausea, or diarrhea.

Drinking alcohol can also worsen symptoms of gout, which colchicine is used to treat. If you have gout, your doctor will likely recommend avoiding alcohol.

If you drink alcohol, talk with your doctor about how much (if any), may be safe to consume while you’re taking colchicine.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding while taking colchicine

It’s not known if colchicine is safe to take during pregnancy. If you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant, talk with your doctor about the possible risks and benefits of taking colchicine.

It’s not known whether colchicine is safe to take while breastfeeding. Colchicine can pass into breast milk. But side effects haven’t been reported in children exposed to the drug through breast milk. If you’re breastfeeding or planning to breastfeed, talk with your doctor before taking colchicine.

Most of colchicine’s side effects are mild and easily managed. But the medication can sometimes cause serious side effects.

If you have any questions about side effects that colchicine can cause, talk with your doctor. You can also ask them about Colcrys, which is the brand-name version of colchicine.

A generic drug and its brand-name version are expected to have the same side effects because they contain the same active ingredient. (An active ingredient is what makes a drug work.)

Examples of questions you may want to ask your doctor include:

  • Is my risk of side effects higher when I first start taking colchicine?
  • What are the side effects of taking colchicine off-label for pericarditis?
  • Is it safe to take colchicine with my other medications?
  • How do the side effects of colchicine compare with those of other drugs used to treat gout, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)?

To get information on different conditions and tips for improving your health, subscribe to any of Healthline’s newsletters. You may also want to check out the online communities at Bezzy. It’s a place where people with certain conditions can find support and connect with others.

Disclaimer: Healthline has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up to date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or another healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.

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