Acne treatment Acne treatment

Acne Prescription Medication

Acne Prescription Medication Acne Prescription Medication


Acne can usually be controlled sufficiently with topical creams, cleansing pads and other treatments. Some people have stubborn outbreaks that won't respond to the usual remedies. These people have several prescription medication options that must be obtained through a doctor. These drugs can often clear up the skin when other methods have failed, but some of them carry risks that must be weighed against the benefits.


There are three main types of medication commonly used to treat acne. The Mayo Clinic explains that antibiotics are often combined with topical treatments that are not producing satisfactory results on their own. Female acne sufferers who are also looking for a birth control method may be given an oral contraceptive. Only certain birth control pills have been specifically approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treating acne, but states that most types will work. Those with extremely severe acne might be given a drug called isotretinoin, which is helpful but which has a high risk of serious side effects.


Antibiotics work by killing the bacteria that play a role in acne. This bacteria feed on the dead skin cells and oil that cause pimple outbreaks, adding to the inflammation. Birth control pills work at the hormonal level. This is especially useful for adult women, who often have acne outbreaks linked to their monthly menstrual cycle. Isotretinoin is similar in chemical composition to vitamin A. It helps prevent oil glands from secreting an excessive amount of oil, the Acne Guide informational website explains. It also changes the oil to a form that is less likely to clog pores.

Time Frame

Doctors do not usually like to have patients take antibiotics for the long term, the Mayo Clinic explains, because they can develop resistance to the drugs. Acne sufferers will generally stay on the pills only until there is noticeable improvement, which can take three to four months. Women using birth control pills to improve their acne generally keep taking the medication for as long as they wish to prevent pregnancy. Isotretinoin is typically taken for four to six months, according to Acne Guide.


Both antibiotics and birth control pills are typically used for mild to moderate acne outbreaks. Isotretinoin is only given to people with severe acne that does not improve with any other treatment or with cystic acne that is causing scars.


Antibiotics do not have any major side effects. Their only risk is the possibility of developing immunity. Birth control pills elevate the risk of blood clots and heart disease and may raise a woman's blood pressure, the Mayo Clinic warns. Isotretinoin can have very serious side effects, like birth defects in pregnant women and depression that can lead to suicidal thoughts. It may also cause nosebleeds; aching muscles; and dryness of the nose, mouth, lips and eyes. It can raise liver enzyme, cholesterol and triglycerides.

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