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How Is Acne Treated?

Monday, October 13, 2014 - 18:50

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

Acne responds well to treatment, especially if treated early, at the onset of the condition.

Treatment is offered to:

  • Prevent possible scarring
  • Deal with inflamed and painful areas
  • Limit the formation of new blackheads and whiteheads
  • Lessen any stress or embarrassment associated with the acne

Mild acne can be treated with over-the-counter medications. More serious acne requires treatment by a dermatologist

Mild to moderately severe acne

Very severe acne

Side effects of acne treatment

Mild To Moderately Severe Acne

Mild acne is managed well by over-the-counter topical preparations such as:

  • Benzoyl peroxide
  • Resorcinol
  • Salicylic acid
  • Sulfur

Topical creams, gels, and lotions are medications applied directly to the skin. They may contain benzoyl peroxide, antibiotics, or retinoidswhich are vitamin A acids (Retin A).

  • Benzoyl peroxide dries up the oil; it works by killing the bacteria P acnes.
  • Salicylic acid helps stop the shedding of the skin cells lining the oil glands.
  • Rersorcinol and sulfur work by breaking up the pimples.

Most people with mild acne will see results from treatment within several months.

In some people, these medications may initially irritate the face, causing some redness or burning, but this soon settles. However, if it occurs with continued use, the doctor should be seen and other medications considered.

Individuals who have moderately severe acne will benefit from a visit to a primary care physician or a dermatologist. The dermatologist may prescribe topical creams and/or oral antibiotics. Prescription topical medications for acne include:

  • Antibiotic ointments may help reduce inflammation and slow the spread of bacteria
  • Retinoids (Vitamin A derivatives) help to unplug hair follicles; some medications also help to prevent follicles from becoming plugged in the first place. Once follicles are unplugged, other topical medications, such as antibiotics, can enter them more effectively
  • Other prescription-strength topical medications may be used to help control oily skin, reduce inflammation, and stop bacterial growth and spread. Many of these preparations are simply stronger versions of medications available over the counter, including benzoyl peroxide, sulfur, or azelaic acid.

Oral antibiotics. Antibiotics taken by mouth may be prescribed by a physician for moderate to severe acne. The most commonly prescribed oral antibiotics are tetracycline and erythromycin. Antibiotics reduces the population of P. acnes, the skin bacterium responsible for making chemicals that cause inflammation. For this reason, antibiotics will reduce the number of red and yellow pimples.

Need To Know:

Tetracycline can cause permanent discoloration of teeth that are still forming in children. It should not be taken by children who do not yet have all their permanent teeth.

Low-dose contraceptive. In 1992, a low-dose contraceptive,Ortho Tri-Cyclenbecame available for the treatment of moderate acne in women 15 years or older.

  • This contraceptive acts by lowering hormonal activity. This results in reducing the overactivity of the oil glands.
  • Ortho Tri-Cyclen is used in low doses to treat acne, with a combination of synthetic female hormones.
  • In clinical studies, Ortho Tri-Cyclen showed improvement of acne in more than 80% of the participants in the study who were treated with it.

Very Severe Acne

In cases where severe acne does not respond to long-term antibiotic and topical therapy, another oral medication is available. This is called isotretinoin (Accutane®) and is a synthetic derivative (made from chemicals) of vitamin A, which is essential for growth of healthy skin.

  • It is the most effective treatment for severe acne.
  • After four to six months on the treatment, the acne had disappeared in up to 90% of those treated.
  • But the acne may recur in some people, and another course of the treatment may be required.

Accutane® is the most effective acne treatment because it reduces the four major factors that predispose a person to acne:

  • Oil production
  • Blockage of the skin pores
  • The role of the skin bacteria P. acnes
  • Skin inflammation

The course of treatment is four to six months of daily treatment.

Need To Know:

In spite of the high success with Accutaine® in acne treatment, it is only recommended for the most severe cases. This is because it has many side effects and is more expensive than any other treatment.

Side Effects Of Acne Treatment

Topical creams can cause a mild irritation or drying of the skin.

In 95 percent of individuals who take oral antibiotics, there have been no reported side effects. A small percentage of people, however, will experience:

  • Mild abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea, in rare cases
  • Some women may develop a yeast infection
  • Tetracycline antibiotics, especially doxycycline, sometimes causes sun sensitivity, which means the individual may sunburn more easily

Need To Know:

Should I use Accutaine®?

Accutane can be extremely effective in treating acne. But it is only recommended for severe cases, because it is expensive and does have possible side effects, some of which can be serious. Therefore, one must balance carefully the advantages of its use against the disadvantages of the possible side effects. Fortunately, the side effects do go away once the medication is stopped.

Side effects include:

  • Headaches
  • Chapped lips
  • Drying of the mucous membranes such as the eyes and nose
  • Nose bleeds
  • Joint pains
  • Muscle aches
  • Damage to an unborn baby (if the woman is pregnant)
  • Elevation in the blood lipids cholesterol and triglycerides

Any side effects that you may experience from acne medication should be reported immediately to your physician.

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