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young woman squeeze her acne in front of the mirror

Antibiotic Treatment for Acne

young woman squeeze her acne in front of the mirror

Acne is a condition of the skin where in the oil glands of the skin are infected by bacteria when the dead cells and oil clog up the pores. Acne is of various types – Blackheads, Whiteheads, Papules, Pustules, Cysts and Nodules. While blackheads and whiteheads are of the non-inflammatory type, the other types are inflammatory in nature.

The role of antibiotics is quite effective in curing the inflammatory type of acne than the non-inflammatory type. This is because antibiotics kill the bacteria causing the inflammation but doesn’t help in unplugging the pores as in whiteheads and blackheads.

Duration of Antibiotic Treatment

Antibiotic treatment for Acne is usually given orally or applied on affected skin in the form of gel, cream or lotion. It takes a minimum of 4 weeks for the antibiotic treatment to bring an improvement in the skin condition. By the 6th week, the patients can feel a good change. It takes about 4 to 6 months of continuous treatment for the skin to come back to the normal condition. Hence, it is very important for people to be patient during the whole course of treatment. Some people discontinue the treatment after a couple of weeks resulting in failure of treatment.

Oral Antibiotics

Oral Antibiotics are prescribed for those who have inflammatory type of acne. These are helpful in killing the bacteria that is causing the acne and thus, results in the reduction of inflammation. Few of the antibiotics used in the treatment are

  Tetracycline: This is the commonly and widely used antibiotic for acne. Tetracycline is usually taken on empty stomach.

   Doxycycline: This is an effective drug for treating acne as it is more lipophilic and thus, penetrates better into the sebaceous unit. The only problem is that this drug increases the sensitivity to sun.

  Minocycline: Minocycline is also lipophilic and is very effective even when other treatments for acne fails. This drug is usually given for pustular acne.

  Lymecycline: Lymecycline is a safe drug and is tolerated well than the other antibiotics.

Other antibiotics that are used for the treatment of acne are Erythromycin (for young children, pregnant and breastfeeding women), Azithromycin (for people who are intolerant to tetracycline) and Clindamycin.

All these medicines should be taken under the doctor’s supervision and is contraindicated in pregnant and breast feeding women, and children below 8 years of age. They might also sometimes cause autoimmune problems, skin pigmentation and vestibular toxicity.

Topical Antibiotics

Topical Antibiotics are used for mild and moderate acne. Some of the topical antibiotics are

Clindamycin: Clindamycin is used alone or in combination with Benzoyl Peroxide or Tretinoin. Using the combination is more effective than using Clindamycin alone. Improvements are seen in the skin condition after 12 weeks of treatment.

Erythromycin: Erythromycin is also used alone or along with the combination of Benzoyl Peroxide.

Use Antibiotics Judiciously

Antibiotics don’t work for everything. They help in killing the bacteria. But they do not control other factors like clogged pores and oil production. Treatments like skin washes using benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, and application of topical retinoids should be tried before going for antibiotics treatment. Also, topical antibiotics have fewer side effects than oral antibiotics. Hence, it is important to choose and use antibiotics judiciously!


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