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Oral Antibiotics to Treat Acne

written by: R. Elizabeth C. Kitchen • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 2/28/2011

Can I use oral antibiotics for acne? Here we will answer this question and provide information on this topic.

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    Acne is a skin condition that can be mild or severe. Patients may experience whiteheads, blackheads, pustules, cysts, papules or a combination of these lesions. This condition results from clogged pores. There are several types of treatment for acne, both over-the-counter and prescription. Many ask, however, whether or not oral antibiotics for acne are effective.

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    How Can Oral Antibiotics Benefit Acne?

    Several mechanisms are at play when it comes to acne. Oral antibiotics work to reduce how much bacteria is found around and inside the follicle. They are also beneficial in decreasing the irritating chemicals that the white blood cells produce. Lastly, they are often effective in decreasing free fatty acid concentration in sebum, which results in a reduced inflammatory response.

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    Erythromycin

    This antibiotic is very commonly used in the treatment of acne. It is often used over tetracycline due to having several advantages. This antibiotic possesses anti-inflammatory properties that are beneficial in decreasing the redness in lesions. This is all in addition to killing bacteria. All patients should take it with food. Most patients take it twice daily at a dose ranging from 250 mg to 500 mg. Pregnant women may take this antibiotic. Common side effects include nausea and stomach upset.

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    Tetracycline

    This is the most common of the oral antibiotics for acne. It is usually taken twice a day at a dose of 500 mg, that is eventually reduced to 250 mg once the reduction in acne lesions is significant. To be most effective, this drug has to be administered when the patient has an empty stomach. This is a drawback for many patients. Children younger than nine and pregnant women should not take this antibiotic. Common side effects include diarrhea and upset stomach.

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    Minocycline

    This antibiotic has been used effectively to treat acne for a number of years. It is a tetracycline derivative. Those with pustular acne find this oral antibiotic especially beneficial. While taking it with food does decrease its absorption, it is not significant so if a patient has to eat with it, he or she can. This antibiotic is also taken twice a day with a dosage range of 50 mg to 100 mg. Side effects may include dizziness, vomiting, nausea, tooth discoloration, and skin pigmentation changes. The tooth and skin changes are typically seen in patients who have taken this drug long-term.

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    Clindamycin

    While the topical form is most often prescribed, the oral form has also been shown to be effective. Patients typically take this drug twice a day at a dosage range of 75 mg to 150 mg. The most serious side effect of this antibiotic is known as pseudomembranous colitis, a type of serious bacterial intestinal infection.

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    Doxycycline

    Those who cannot take or do not respond to tetracycline or erythromycin may benefit from this oral antibiotic. Patients take it twice a day at a dosage range of 50 mg to 100 mg. Significant nausea can occur if not taken with food. This antibiotic is more known for causing sun sensitivity than tetracycline.

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    Resources

    New Zealand Dermatological Society. (2009). Antibiotics for Acne. Retrieved on February 28, 2011 from the New Zealand Dermatological Society: http://www.dermnetnz.org/acne/acne-antibiotics.html

    PubMed Health. (2011). Acne. Retrieved on February 28, 2011 from PubMed Health: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001876/

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