Side Effects of Acne Medications
Acne is a common skin condition that affects millions of people. Whether treating cases of mild acne with over-the counter products, or receiving prescription treatments from your dermatologist or family physician, it is important to understand the potential side effects of the acne medication.
One of the most common side effects of acne medications is the drying of the skin. This occurs with treatment products, such as salicylic acid, azelaic acid, the topical antibiotic Clindamycin, and the retinoid adapalene. Many treatment products try to counteract this drying effect by including moisturizers and humectants, such as glycerin, to help keep the skin cells moist.
With skin dryness also commonly comes skin irritation, such as itching or burning. Skin irritation is a side effect for treatments, such as topical retinoids, topical antibiotics (such as erythromycin) and the antimicrobial benzyol peroxide.
An allergic reaction is one of the most severe side effects that can occur with acne treatment products. All acne treatments have the potential to cause an allergic reaction. The severity of allergic reactions can vary from mild itching, burning and swelling at the application site, to hives and difficulty breathing. Contact your doctor immediately at the sign of any abnormal skin or body reactions to the medication.
A change in melanin can also occur when using acne treatment medications. Melanin is the substance in your skin that provides pigment (color) the more melanin present in an area of skin tissue, the darker the tissue will become. Some acne medications, such as azelaic acid, will cause a reduction in melanin, resulting in a lightening of the skin where the medication has been applied. Other medications, such as benzoyl peroxide, may also bleach out the color of the hair in the treatment area.
Gastrointestinal irritation is largely only experienced by those using antibiotics to treat acne. Antibiotics, such as erythromycin and tetracycline, can cause stomach issues such as nausea, loss of appetite, diarrhea and vomiting.
Birth defects are a potentially serious side effect of some acne medications, most notably isotretinoin (Accutane). Isotretinoin is a commonly prescribed retinoid, that when used while pregnant can cause birth defects, such as mental retardation, cleft pallets, heart defects and physical brain development problems (such as hydrocephaly and microcephaly). The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has considered the birth defect risks high enough to design a program called iPLEDGE to help ensure the medication is not used while pregnant.
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