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Why is this medication prescribed?

Ethambutol is a medication primarily prescribed for the treatment of tuberculosis (TB) infection, often in combination with other antibiotics. It works by inhibiting the formation of the bacterial cell wall, thereby preventing the growth and reproduction of the TB bacteria.

How should this medicine be used?

Here’s how Ethambutol is typically used:

  • Dosage: The dosage of Ethambutol varies depending on factors such as the patient’s age, weight, and the severity of the infection. It’s usually taken orally in tablet form.
  • Frequency: Ethambutol is typically taken once a day, although the exact frequency may vary depending on the specific treatment regimen prescribed by the healthcare provider.
  • Combination Therapy: Ethambutol is often used in combination with other antibiotics, such as isoniazid, rifampin, and pyrazinamide, as part of a multidrug regimen for TB treatment. The combination therapy helps to prevent the development of drug-resistant TB.
  • Duration of Treatment: The duration of Ethambutol treatment can vary depending on factors such as the patient’s response to the medication and the severity of the infection. TB treatment often lasts for several months, and it’s essential to complete the full course of treatment as prescribed by the healthcare provider to prevent the recurrence of TB and the development of drug resistance.
  • Monitoring: While taking Ethambutol, patients may need regular monitoring of their vision, as Ethambutol can sometimes cause optic neuritis, a condition that affects the optic nerve and can lead to vision changes or loss. If any vision changes occur while taking Ethambutol, patients should notify their healthcare provider immediately.
  • Food Interactions: Ethambutol can be taken with or without food. However, patients should follow their healthcare provider’s instructions regarding food and medication interactions.
  • Missed Doses: If a dose of Ethambutol is missed, it should be taken as soon as remembered. However, if it’s almost time for the next dose, the missed dose should be skipped, and the regular dosing schedule should be resumed. Double doses should not be taken to make up for a missed dose.

It’s important for patients to follow their healthcare provider’s instructions carefully and to communicate any concerns or side effects experienced while taking Ethambutol.

Other uses for this medicine

While Ethambutol is primarily used in the treatment of tuberculosis (TB), it may also be prescribed for other bacterial infections, particularly those caused by Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC) and Mycobacterium kansasii. However, its use in these infections may vary, and it’s essential to consult a healthcare provider for specific guidance.

What special precautions should I follow?

Special precautions should be observed when taking Ethambutol:

  • Vision Monitoring: Regular monitoring of vision is crucial while taking Ethambutol, as it can cause optic neuritis, an inflammation of the optic nerve that can lead to vision changes or loss. Patients should undergo baseline visual acuity testing and color vision testing before starting Ethambutol therapy, and periodic vision assessments should be performed throughout the treatment course. If any vision changes occur, patients should inform their healthcare provider immediately.
  • Liver Function Monitoring: Ethambutol can rarely cause liver damage, so liver function tests may be recommended periodically during treatment.
  • Kidney Function Monitoring: Patients with pre-existing kidney impairment may require dosage adjustments or closer monitoring while taking Ethambutol.
  • Allergic Reactions: Patients should be monitored for signs of allergic reactions while taking Ethambutol. Symptoms of an allergic reaction may include rash, itching, swelling of the face or throat, severe dizziness, or difficulty breathing. If any allergic reactions occur, medical attention should be sought immediately.
  • Drug Interactions: Ethambutol may interact with other medications, so it’s essential to inform the healthcare provider about all prescription, over-the-counter, and herbal products being taken before starting Ethambutol therapy.
  • Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: The safety of Ethambutol use during pregnancy and breastfeeding is not well established. Pregnant or breastfeeding individuals should discuss the risks and benefits of Ethambutol with their healthcare provider before starting treatment.
  • Neurological Disorders: Ethambutol may exacerbate certain neurological disorders, such as peripheral neuropathy. Patients with a history of neurological disorders should use Ethambutol with caution and under close medical supervision.
  • Alcohol Use: Ethambutol is generally well-tolerated, but excessive alcohol consumption may increase the risk of liver damage and other adverse effects. Therefore, it’s advisable to limit alcohol intake while taking Ethambutol.
  • Diabetic Patients: Ethambutol may interfere with glucose tolerance tests in diabetic patients, leading to false-positive results. Patients with diabetes should inform their healthcare provider before undergoing glucose tolerance testing while taking Ethambutol.

It’s crucial for patients to adhere to their healthcare provider’s instructions and to report any side effects or concerns promptly. Additionally, patients should not stop taking Ethambutol without consulting their healthcare provider, even if they start to feel better, as this can lead to the development of drug-resistant TB.

What special dietary instructions should I follow?

  • There are no specific dietary restrictions associated with Ethambutol. It can be taken with or without food.
  • However, maintaining a balanced diet and staying hydrated is essential for overall health and to support your body’s ability to fight infection.

What should I do if I forget a dose?

  • If you miss a dose of Ethambutol, take it as soon as you remember, unless it’s almost time for your next dose.
  • If it’s almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and continue with your regular dosing schedule.
  • Do not take a double dose to make up for a missed one.
  • If you’re unsure about what to do, consult your healthcare provider or pharmacist for guidance.

What side effects can this medication cause?

Ethambutol, like any medication, can cause side effects. While not everyone will experience these side effects, some common and less common ones include:

  • Vision Changes: Ethambutol is known to affect vision, particularly color vision. It can cause optic neuritis, leading to blurred vision, difficulty distinguishing between colors (especially red and green), and decreased visual acuity. Vision changes may be reversible upon discontinuation of the medication, but it’s essential to report any vision-related symptoms to your healthcare provider immediately.
  • Gastrointestinal Symptoms: Some individuals may experience gastrointestinal side effects such as nausea, vomiting, stomach upset, or abdominal pain. Taking Ethambutol with food can help reduce these symptoms.
  • Skin Reactions: Rarely, Ethambutol may cause skin reactions such as rash, itching, or hives. Allergic reactions can also occur, characterized by severe rash, swelling of the face or throat, or difficulty breathing.
  • Liver Problems: Ethambutol can rarely cause liver damage, resulting in symptoms such as jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes), dark urine, or persistent abdominal pain. If you experience any signs of liver problems, seek medical attention promptly.
  • Peripheral Neuropathy: In some cases, Ethambutol may cause peripheral neuropathy, leading to tingling, numbness, or weakness in the hands and feet.
  • Joint Pain: Joint pain or arthralgia may occur as a side effect of Ethambutol.
  • Fever: Some individuals may experience fever while taking Ethambutol.
  • Dizziness or Headache: Ethambutol can occasionally cause dizziness or headache.
  • Kidney Problems: Rarely, Ethambutol may affect kidney function, leading to symptoms such as changes in urination patterns or swelling of the ankles.

It’s important to note that these are not all the possible side effects of Ethambutol. Some individuals may experience other side effects not listed here. If you experience any concerning symptoms while taking Ethambutol, it’s crucial to notify your healthcare provider promptly. Additionally, do not stop taking Ethambutol without consulting your healthcare provider, even if you experience side effects, as abruptly discontinuing the medication can lead to treatment failure and the development of drug-resistant tuberculosis.

What should I know about storage and disposal of this medication?

Here’s what you should know about the storage and disposal of Ethambutol:


  • Store Ethambutol tablets at room temperature away from moisture and heat.
  • Keep the medication in its original container, tightly closed, and out of reach of children.


  • Do not keep outdated medicine or medicine no longer needed.
  • Dispose of unused Ethambutol tablets properly according to local regulations or guidelines.
  • You can ask your pharmacist or healthcare provider about the proper disposal method for Ethambutol.

In case of emergency/overdose

  • In case of an overdose or emergency, call your local poison control center (in the United States, call 1-800-222-1222) or seek emergency medical attention immediately.
  • Overdose symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, visual disturbances, and neurological symptoms such as confusion or seizures.

What other information should I know?

  • Ethambutol may interact with other medications. Inform your healthcare provider about all the medicines you take, including prescription, over-the-counter, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
  • Avoid consuming alcohol while taking Ethambutol, as it may increase the risk of liver damage.
  • Complete the full course of Ethambutol treatment as prescribed by your healthcare provider, even if you start feeling better. Stopping the medication prematurely can lead to the recurrence of tuberculosis or the development of drug-resistant strains.
  • Follow all instructions provided by your healthcare provider or pharmacist, including dosage, frequency, and duration of treatment.
  • Attend all scheduled appointments with your healthcare provider for monitoring of your condition and response to treatment.
  • Report any new or worsening symptoms to your healthcare provider promptly.

It’s essential to follow these guidelines carefully to ensure the safe and effective use of Ethambutol and to minimize the risk of adverse effects or complications. If you have any questions or concerns about Ethambutol, don’t hesitate to discuss them with your healthcare provider or pharmacist.

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