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Oral Antibiotics For Acne in Singapore

What Is Oral Antibiotics For Acne?

Antibiotics used to be a common treatment for acne, and while there is still a role for antibiotics in certain acne cases, its use has largely been superseded by other topical treatments, Isotretinoin medication and other light-based treatments such as lasers.

Some common antibiotics used to treat acne include: Doxycycline, Minocycline, Tetracycline and Erythromycin.

How Do Antibiotics Work To Improve Acne?

Antibiotics have two main beneficial effects on acne:

  1. They reduce the number of acne-causing bacteria called Propionibacterium acnes on the skin surface and in the follicles.
  2. They exert an anti-inflammatory action.

How Effective Are Antibiotics?

The effectiveness of oral antibiotics are limited in treating acne. Several clinical studies show that oral antibiotics may reduce symptoms by approximately 50%, but are not more effective than other acne medications.

When Is Antibiotics Useful For Acne Treatment?

Generally, we prescribe antibiotics for acne in 2 situations:

  1. Mild pubertal acne for children above the age of 12, who may outgrow their acne and just need a little help in the interim to control their acne better.
  2. If a heavy bacterial load on the skin is suspected, evidenced by substantial inflammation and/or pus formation.


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Antibiotics are usually prescribed for 1 – 3 months. Antibiotics do take a few weeks to work and usually not continued for more than 3 months to reduce the risk of developing antibiotic resistance.

  • Success rate is not the best: often, antibiotics fail to work and even if they do, they do not produce impressive results. This is why we also prefer a combination of treatments for a more holistic effect.
  • Temporary benefit: even when they do work, the benefits can be temporary since antibiotics should not be prescribed for more than 3 months.
  • Side effects: Different antibiotics have a different list of potential side effects which may range from just an irritation to life threatening reactions.
  • Antibiotic resistance: prolonged treatment with antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistance, which is becoming a universal problem, leading to infections which become more and more difficult to treat.
  • The most common side effect is gastrointestinal upset such as nausea, bloatedness and diarrhoea. This can be reduced by taking the medication with a glass of water after meals.
  • Sensitivity to sunlight resulting in itch, redness and being prone to sunburns.
  • Itching of the genital areas or a sore mouth/tongue. This may indicate a yeast infection which will require treatment.
  • Stop the medication if you develop a rash when you first start taking Doxycycline.
  • For women who are pregnant, planning for pregnancy or breastfeeding, do inform your doctor as these antibiotics may affect the bones and teeth development of your baby.
  • Antibiotics should not be taken in children less than 12 years old as it can cause discolouration of teeth and affect bone growth.
  • Antibiotics may affect the effectiveness of oral contraceptive pills taken concurrently and increase your chance of unwanted pregnancy.
  • Inform your doctor if you are taking over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, minerals and herbal products.

Acne has many causes and underlying reasons, which means a whole arsenal of solutions are ready to tackle these causes. These include photodynamic therapies, chemical peels, acne injections, and isotretinoin medication.

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