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Medications for the Treatment of Acne

Aug 17, 2007
There are many standard medications for the treatment of acne. If you decide that your acne is not responding to over-the-counter treatments, it would be wise to visit your local GP. If after two months the acne still does not seem to be improving, ask for a referral to a dermatologist. Treatments for acne differ in various countries and what is acceptable in one may not be available in another.

One of the most common treatments for acne is an antibiotic like tetracycline. This will kill the bacteria present in the blocked hair follicle, thus reducing the inflammation. It may need to be taken for some months, but is considered quite safe.

The acne can also be treated externally by using erythromycin or benzoyl peroxide. While this reduces the bacteria causing the problem, it is really treating the symptoms rather than the cause. That is, the oil secretion and abnormal cell behaviour that blocks the follicle in the first place. So unfortunately, the acne will usually reappear within some weeks of the treatment being stopped.

The best thing to do is to reduce the amount of oil being secreted, and this can be accomplished by taking Vitamin A derivatives (marketed as Accutane). There are many harsh side effects, such as nosebleeds and dry skin with this treatment, so it must be done under the close supervision of the dermatologist. On the good side, over 80% of patients are permanently cured of acne. It was once thought that liver damage and depression could occur, but this is unsubstantiated. Birth defects can occur if taken by pregnant women, but the patient also taking the contraceptive pill before beginning the treatment avoids this.

Exfoliating the skin is another treatment widely used in controlling acne. A chemical exfoliating agent such as salicylic acid or glycolic acid is used as a topical application to encourage the top layer of skin to peel off. This is not as horrible as it sounds, as only a microscopic layer dissolves. The same effect can also be accomplished by the use of an abrasive cloth or liquid scrub.

Sometimes, the contraceptive pill is prescribed for the control of acne. A combined oestrogen/progestogen pill (marketed as Diane) is the most effective and now there is a new one on the market - though it may not be available in the USA - which has fewer side effects.

Photosynthesis is yet another treatment. Sunlight has been used for a short-term aid in the past. Now it has been found that intense blue light produced by specially made fluorescent tubes is far more efficient. Yoram Harth and Alan Shalita have conducted extensive tests and trials with this method and found it can reduce the inflamed lesions by 60-70% in about four weeks of treatment. It works best if the acne is mild to moderate and has no side effects.

These are the main treatments used to control and cure acne. It is best to adhere strictly to the guidelines prescribed by your doctor for each one.
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