Most people suffer from acne for some period of time during their childhood/adolescence. Some of us, however, continue to deal with the problem up through their early and sometimes even later adult years. For those with chronic acne, the topical medications and creams that help periodic acne may not be enough to permanently resolve your problem. Most dermatologists that see patients with severe acne will either prescribe an oral antibiotic to be taken in accordance with a medicated cream or a strong medication with the dedicated purpose of permanently eliminating a patient’s acne issues. Decisions to take one of these prescriptions should be made seriously as, like almost every medication, these solutions come with potentially dangerous side effects.
What should you know before making the decision to take oral prescription medication to treat your or your child’s acne?
Many dermatologists prescribe oral antibiotics like minocycline for various periods of time to combat acne. These antibiotics aim to kill the bacterium Propionibacterium acnes that cause most breakouts. Antibiotics, however, can cause some side effects when taken for too long. These can include gastrointestinal issues, yeast infections, and birth defects in pregnancy among other more serious and rare problems. In addition, the acne-causing bacteria can become resistant to the antibiotic after extended use, rendering the medication useless. This option may be useful for short term bursts of severe acne but not for extended treatments.
Because much of the bacteria that cause acne breakouts are produced during hormonal changes within the body, women can take oral birth control to stabilize their hormone levels and reduce bad effects on the skin. It is important to note that for some women, however, oral contraceptives have been shown to have the opposite effects, actually causing an increase in skin irritation and acne. Birth control is never without risks, especially for women over thirty-five or who have blood-clotting disorders, and should not be taken without the guidance of a gynaecologist.
Isotretinoin is the chemical name for the drug commonly known as Accutane, a powerful member of the retinoid group. This drug is prescribed for severe acne that has not responded to other forms of medication. It permanently reduces the amount of oil produced by glands in the skin, reducing inflammation and clogged pores. It has proven impressively successful at clearing most acne cases.
However, isotretinoin is a strong drug and thus can have significant side effects. Most patients suffer from extreme dryness of the skin, hair, and lips. Some patients have complained of nosebleeds, achiness, sun sensitivity, and liver issues while taking the drug. In addition, becoming pregnant while taking isotretinoin is known to cause serious birth defects in the fetus. For this reason, doctors in the US are required to ask women for proof of two types of birth control if they are sexually active to prevent the possibility of becoming pregnant while taking the medication.There are also some links between isotretinoin and psychological side effects like depression and suicidal thoughts, worrying parents of troubled teenagers who might otherwise be good candidates for the medication.
Suffering from moderate or severe acne types can make your day to day life more difficult than it needs to be. If topical creams haven’t helped you so far, consider talking to your dermatologist about prescription options. Before agreeing to a form of oral treatment, however, make sure to understand the risks associated with taking any oral medication and weigh your options carefully.Ashley Williamson is a freelance health and wellness blogger. When she is not working she likes to travel and do yoga. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment!