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Common Antibiotics for Acne

Common Antibiotics for Acne Common Antibiotics for Acne

Acne is a condition caused by a combination of clogged oil ducts, inflammation and overgrowth of the bacteria Propionibacterium acnes, or P. acnes. While it is not a physically debilitating condition, it does tend to cause a lot of psychological discomfort; self-esteem may be impacted, social interactions may be limited and even job prospects may be affected in severe cases. A variety of treatments can help manage acne, including the use of antibiotics.

Topical or Oral Erythromycin

In its topical form, erythromycin is a frequently prescribed antibiotic for acne. It is available as a gel or a solution and is also available as an oral antibiotic be used as a supplement to topical therapy. Severe side effects may result such as pain and nausea which may limit its use as an oral antibiotic. Other side effects include heart problems, rashes, seizures and liver problems.


Minocycline is an antibiotic that is derived from another antibiotic called tetracycline. Tetracycline was once commonly used in the treatment of acne; however, minocycline eventually emerged as more effective at reducing the number of acne-causing bacteria Propionibacterium acnes. According to, side effects of minocycline include rash, hearing loss, rare liver problems and dizziness. Other side effects include thyroid dysfunction, blood cell disorders, joint stiffness and pain, and kidney problems.


Clindamycin is widely prescribed as a topical preparation. According to the medical text "UpToDate," the topical version of clindamycin is one of the most commonly-prescribed antibiotics for acne. It is available as several preparations: a gel, a solution, a foam or a lotion. Clindamycin, like the related antibiotic erythromycin, should not be used on its own for treating acne--it should be combined with either an oral antibiotic or with another type of acne medication called a retinoid. Side effects of topical clindamycin depend on the specific topical formulation. In the gel formulation, patients may feel that their skin feels oily. In the lotion or solution form, patients may feel that their skin is dry or scaly or may experience a burning sensation or itchiness on the skin. They may also notice that their skin is peeling in the areas on which the antibiotic was applied. In oral form, clindamycin has been associated with a disorder called pseudomembranous colitis as well as abdominal pain and nausea. In addition, rashes, liver enzyme abnormalities and temporary blood cell disorders are also potential side effects seen with clindamycin use.

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