Antibiotics are commonly prescribed for the treatment of acne. Antibiotics may be used on the skin (topical preparations) or taken by mouth (oral preparations).
Antibiotics help control acne by killing the bacteria that cause the acne lesions to become inflamed. The sebum (oil) within the hair follicles can become infected by p. acnes bacteria, resulting in swelling and redness of the acne lesion. Killing the bacteria reduces the inflammation and reduces the severity of the acne flare.
Oral Antibiotics for Acne
Oral antibiotics are usually prescribed for cases of moderate or severe acne. Oral antibiotics are usually started at a relatively high dosage that is reduced over time as the acne is brought under control.
Oral antibiotics for acne include:
- Erythromycin. Erythromycin is prescribed for a wide variety of bacterial infections, and is effective against P. acnes on the skin. The most common side effects are GI upset, including nausea and stomach pain.
- Minocycline (Dynacin®, Solodyn®). Minocyline has been shown to be effective in treating acne that has not responded to other oral antibiotics. Studies suggest that antibiotic resistance is less likely to develop against minocycline.
- Tetracycline and Doxycline (Adoxa®, Doryx®). Tetracycline and its derivative, doxycycline, are effective against the inflammatory lesions of acne. These medications should not be taken by children younger than 8 years of age because they can affect growth and stain teeth. They should also not be taken by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. People are advised to avoid sun exposure when taking these medications because they can increase sensitivity to sunlight.
Take your acne medication exactly as directed by your doctor. Do not take more or less of it or take it more often than prescribed.
Read the medication guide that you receive with the medication for a complete list of possible side effects.