Acne treatment Acne treatment

Acne Medication Management

Acne Medication Management


Acne vulgaris, better known as acne, is a common skin condition affecting up to 85 percent of teenagers, according to the April 2005 issue of the "New England Journal of Medicine." It is associated with a bacteria named Propionibacterium acnes, a normal skin flora which is found in excessive amounts on acne lesions. The condition is characterized by lesions on the face, chest, neck and back. These areas contain the highest amount of sweat or sebaceous glands. Acne is classified by the severity of the condition, termed mild, moderate or severe acne. This severity determines the proper medication regimen for treatment.

General Measures

It is important not to scratch acne lesions, which leads to excessive scarring. When possible, avoid topical oils and greases. If hair products are used, be sure that they contain glycerin instead of oil. A study by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, published in the March, 2010 "Skin Therapy Letter," shows that diets high in cow's milk intake, as well as high-glycemic foods increase acne severity. Studies regarding association between acne and other foods, so far are inconclusive.


Acne treatment is primary managed by two different routes. The first and easiest, are topical medications. Topical medications are either designed to remove clogs from pores, or are antibiotics to combat the bacteria P. acnes. Topical medications from these two different classes may be combined for a synergistic effect.


The first-line treatment for acne are topical soaps and creams. They are typically purchased over the counter. If these fail, the next available treatment is a topical or oral antibiotic. Oral contraceptives may also be used for females. These must be prescribed by your physician. Oral medications are typically reserved for moderate acne, or acne which fails to respond to topical medication. Success is most often achieved with a combination of topical face washes and some form of antibiotic. The last resort, is a specific medication called isotretinoin, sold under the brand name Accutane. Isotretinoin was designed for severe acne, although it is monitored closely and cannot be used during pregnancy.

Combination Therapy

If your acne does not resolve with one medication. A combination of medications may be necessary. Combinations work by different mechanisms of action, attacking acne on multiple fronts. A typical combination includes a topical face wash, along with oral contraceptive or oral antibiotic. Your physician will be able to discuss effective combination therapy for your specific condition.

Side Effects

With any acne medication, you may experience dry skin. These medications work by decreasing the natural oils produced by your skin to eliminate clogging of the pores. The most important side effect of all acne medications, is that associated with isotretinoin. Isotretinoin is a pregnancy category X medication, meaning it can cause birth defects if taken during pregnancy. Only physicians who are registered with the iPLEDGE program may prescribe this medication. Always speak with your doctor regarding side effects and possible drug-to-drug interactions.

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