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Tetracycline and Acne

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Tetracycline is a prescription medication that is commonly used as an antibiotic for acne. This article explores using Tetracycline for acne.

One of the main causes of acne is bacteria beneath your skin.

While cleaning your face and changing your diet can control the bacteria, in many cases your skin needs something more effective – something that will target the bacteria directly.

That is why many doctors prescribe tetracycline, especially to those with moderate and uncontrolled acne.

What is Tetracycline?

Tetracycline is an antibiotic; a medication that kills bacteria. Tetracycline is a broad spectrum antibiotic, which means that it kills all types of bacteria rather than a specific family of bacteria.

In the past tetracycline has had a variety of different uses. Tetracycline was used as a treatment for Lyme disease, cholera, chlamydia, malaria, bubonic plague, urinary tract infections, and more.

However, more recently, doctors and scientists have focused on tetracycline for acne.

Does Tetracycline Help Acne?

Many studies have shown that tetracycline is an effective treatment option for acne. Used as directed, tetracycline does a good job relieving reducing inflammation and eliminating some (although not all) of the bacteria that causes acne.

Interestingly, these studies have also shown that there is no apparent difference in the type of tetracycline or the method of delivery. In nearly all cases, with different methods of tetracycline acne treatments, they were all able to reduce the appearance of most acne. Indeed, even different doses appeared to have the same effect.

This was especially true when comparing oral and topical acne treatments.

A study by the University of Cincinnati Medical Center compared three groups. The first group took a placebo oral pill and used a tetracycline topical solution. The second group used a tetracycline pill and a placebo topical solution. The third group used both a placebo pill and a placebo topical solution (the control group).

They found that both tetracycline groups experienced roughly identical drops in acne – far better than the placebo group. This study indicates that there is not necessarily any difference between tetracycline administration methods. Tetracycline acne treatment appears to work in all/most forms.

However, tetracycline is not a perfect drug. The most common problem with tetracycline is bacterial immunity. Like other antibiotics, it's possible for the bacteria that causes acne to adapt and become drug resistant. While drug resistant acne may not be dangerous, it does make it considerably more difficult to treat the bacteria over time.

In addition, tetracycline does not clear acne altogether. Most tetracycline reviews of acne say that while the overall frequency of serious outbreaks decreased and the amount of individual acne appeared to lessen, tetracycline was not a perfect cure. Tetracycline does not kill all bacteria, and it's possible for some bacteria to continue to create acne or redness in the cheeks.

Other Benefits of Tetracycline

Tetracycline is one of the most commonly prescribed medications for treating mild, moderate, and severe acne. It's less expensive than other medications and while it does have some side effects, these side effects are considered less risky than other antibiotics.

Rules for Tetracycline

Tetracycline has specific rules that need to be followed in order for the drug to work effectively. Tetracycline cannot simply be taken at any point during the day and clear your skin. Some of these rules include:

  • Tetracycline should be taken on an empty stomach whenever possible. This not only increases its effectiveness, but is believed to reduce drug resistance risk.
  • Tetracycline can metabolize somewhat quickly, so taking it at the same time every day is strongly recommended in order to keep a steady supply in your blood.
  • Tetracycline should not be taken with any food or supplements that have iron or zinc, nor should they be taken with milk or other dairy products.
  • Tetracycline must be recommended and prescribed by a doctor. There are several drugs that interact with tetracycline, and some diseases that can make taking tetracycline dangerous.

Tetracycline is also not a cure for acne. Because there are bacteria still alive in your skin, your acne will grow back as soon as you stop taking tetracycline.      

Side Effects

Tetracycline is an antibiotic, and taking antibiotics can always carry their own risks.

Before worrying about side effects, the most important thing to remember is that you must take tetracycline exactly as directed. Skipping doses or missing doses make it more likely the bacteria that causes acne grows resistant to the drug. Drug resistant bacteria become much more difficult to treat, and the tetracycline will no longer be able to play a role in treating your acne. Acne can also become resistant to tetracycline even when taken as directed, but resistance is less common.

There is also the small risk that taking tetracycline for acne can cause non-acne related bacteria to become resistant to tetracycline, which may carry its own dangers. However, the likelihood of this is very rare.

With regard to tetracycline acne side effects, the toxicity level of tetracycline is low and most side effects are infrequent. But like other medications, tetracycline does have several side effects that may affect your ability to continue taking the drug.

The most common side effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Stomach Discomfort
  • Rash
  • Sore Throat

Like many broad spectrum antibiotics, however, tetracycline can also kill off good bacteria just as it kills off bad bacteria. As a result, tetracycline can affect the health of areas of your body where good bacteria are present.

An example may be intestinal discomfort as a result of losing good bacteria that aids in digestion.

One of the common tetracycline acne side effects is an increase in yeast infections in women. This is a result of tetracycline removing some of the good bacteria within the vagina that keeps it clear of outside particles. Without these good bacteria, infection, inflammation, and discharge may occur.

Tetracycline may also cause sun sensitivity. Sun sensitivity makes it more likely that you were burn when you are out in the sun for any extended period of time. It may also cause other reactions, such as a rash or inflammation as a result of sun exposure.

Expired of heavy medication use may also result in renal failure, which can be very dangerous.

Allergic reaction is not common, but can be dangerous if overlooked. Rash is one of the more common allergic reactions. Also blurred vision, fever, and stomach pain may be the result of a tetracycline allergy. If you experience any serious allergy symptoms, it is important to call your doctor immediately.

In rare cases, tetracycline may cause liver damage.

Tetracycline and Teeth

Tetracycline is also known to cause tooth discoloration, especially on teeth that are still developing.

That is why tetracycline is not recommended for those that still have developing teeth, or those that are pregnant. Also, tetracycline can stain teeth in adults as well, causing them to turn a grayish color. This type of reaction is usually temporary, but in rare cases may be permanent.

Tetracycline as an Acne Treatment

Tetracycline is an effective acne treatment. It clears away skin bacteria and makes it easier to control your acne.

However tetracycline is not right for everyone. The side effect risks, along with the potential to create drug resistant bacteria may make tetracycline an unsuitable choice for treating acne, especially if there are alternative and safer methods. Tetracycline may also not be an effective acne treatment forever, as the bacteria that cause acne can also become immune to the antibiotic.

When it comes to acne and tetracycline, it is a worthwhile choice when other options have been considered, but may not be the best primary way to treat your acne in the short or long term. 





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