If your acne isn’t responding to topical antibiotics for acne treatments, oral antibiotics for acne is probably the next step. This article looks at the primary oral agents used to treat acne: antibiotics. The most potent acne drug of all, Accutane. These oral agents are usually prescribed to be used with the topical medications you may have already been applying.
This article will give you the scoop on the advantages and disadvantages of effective oral antibiotics for acne. I help you understand the dosing strategies and give you the tips to discuss with your doctor for using the medication to get the best results for you. (You can only get these drugs with a prescription from your doctor.) And finally, I show you where to get help if you’re having trouble with your oral medications.
Combination of oral antibiotics and topical treatments
Oral antibiotics are used in the management of moderate to severe acne. As with topical antibiotics, oral antibiotics work on acne with antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects.
Compared with topical therapy, oral therapy has a more rapid onset of action and works faster to improve your acne. Commonly, though, multiple medications are combined for the most effective acne treatment. So in most cases, patients use more than one medication at any given time.
By using drugs that have different means and modes of activity, such as taking oral antibiotics for acne and applying a topical treatment, you attack your acne on several fronts. In designing your treatment regimen, your doctor can choose combinations of different drugs that work on other targets based on the severity of your acne and the possible side effects of the medication.
When to use oral antibiotics for acne treatment?
Your doctor may decide to add oral antibiotics for acne to your topical treatment because the topical medications:
- Working too slowly
- Not doing the job well enough to suit you
- Not working at all
- Your acne is scarring
- You have moderate to severe inflammatory lesions
- Your lesions are widespread, even on your chest and your back
- Your prom is coming up next month
- You experience significant swings in your acne that are related to your period.
- You’re becoming depressed.
Warning: common concerns when using oral antibiotics for acne
A risk-benefit assessment is critical whenever a benign (non-life-threatening) condition such as acne is being treated. That means that you should ask your doctor about the advantages of taking an oral medication versus the disadvantages (such as possible scarring) of not taking it. Ask about the possible side effects — the risks — and what positive things you might expect — the benefits — if you take the drug.
Antibiotics, both topical and oral, have been central to acne treatment for many years. However, public health concerns about their widespread use have increased in recent years due to several issues:
Bacterial resistance: Resistance means that medicine no longer works or becomes less effective because the bacteria change (mutate) and no longer respond to the drug trying to kill or suppress them. No matter how many new antibiotics we come up with to fight P. acnes, the bacterium seems to find a way to outwit us and become resistant to our latest weapons. It’s like trying to fight computer viruses and finding ways to adapt to the ever-changing methods we use to destroy them.
Despite the well-founded concerns about creating bacterial resistance, these drugs have a long safety track record. They’re practical, efficient treatments for many people who have acne and acne-like disorders, such as rosacea.
Purported links between oral antibiotics and breast cancer: A well-publicized study suggested that the long-term use of antibiotics is associated with an increased risk of developing breast cancer. The study indicated that the threat depended on the cumulative dose and the amount of time a woman was taking antibiotics. The study had many flaws and never concluded a direct causal link between antibiotics and breast cancer.
Antibiotics’ influence on the efficacy of birth control pills: Studies have shown that none of the antibiotics used commonly to treat acne interfered with the effectiveness of oral contraceptives. But a woman can get pregnant while on any brand of birth control pill, whether taking antibiotics or not.
A recent study has suggested that the ingestion of oral antibiotics and the use of topical antibiotics in the treatment of acne may be associated with an increased risk of infectious respiratory diseases such as strep throat infections.
Worrying about the safety of long-term oral medications has led to a recent interest in using physical treatments such as lasers and other special light therapies to treat acne.