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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diseases and Conditions > Acne: Treatment & Monitoring
      Category : Health Centers > Skin Conditions


Alternate Names : Acne Vulgaris, Pimples

Acne | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

What are the treatments for the condition?

The most important thing in treating acne is to keep the skin gently cleansed and pores unclogged. Over-the-counter products for acne include the following:

  • cleansers, which should be used only if recommended by the healthcare provider. Many cleansers may aggravate the acne, especially if the person vigorously scrubs the area.
  • benzoyl peroxide, which can be a cream, gel, or lotion. Benzoyl peroxide works by killing the bacteria that can inflame the hair follicle.
  • salicylic acid, which can be a lotion, cream, or pad. Salicylic acid helps unclog pores and prevent abnormal shedding of skin cells.
  • Prescription medications used to treat acne include the following:

  • antibiotics, such as tetracycline and erythromycin, which can be taken orally or applied to the skin. Antibiotics kill bacteria on the skin and within the hair follicles.
  • retinoids, a class of medications that are derived from vitamin A. Retinoids are used for moderate to severe acne. They work by reducing sebum production, killing bacteria, and making skin growth and shedding normal. These medications are generally applied to the skin. Isotretinoin, also known as Accutane, is a powerful oral medication used for severe acne. It is currently the subject of investigation by the Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, for a host of side effects.
  • oral contraceptives, which are female hormones used as birth control pills. These may be prescribed to females with acne to offset the effect of androgen on the skin.
  • Removal of comedones can also help to treat acne. This needs to be done with a special instrument to minimize skin injury. Cortisone may also be injected directly into the skin lesion in certain cases for large, painful cysts.

    What are the side effects of the treatments?

    Excessively dry and red skin is the most common side effect of medications applied to the skin for treatment of acne. Oral antibiotics may cause stomach upset, allergic reactions, and a sensitivity to sunlight. They may also decrease the effectiveness of oral contraceptives.

    Isoretinoin, or Accutane, has been linked to birth defects and miscarriage when used by a pregnant woman. An advisory committee of the Food and Drug Administration has proposed a mandatory registry for women who take isotretinoin. The FDA has also received reports of depression and suicide in individuals taking the medication. At the request of the FDA, the medication's manufacturer has also notified healthcare providers that people taking isotretinoin must receive a medication guide and sign an informed consent document.

    What happens after treatment for the condition?

    Most treatments need to be continued on an ongoing basis to be effective. One exception is isotretinoin, which is used for 16 to 20 weeks.

    How is the condition monitored?

    Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare provider.

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    Acne: Prevention & Expectations


    Author: Lynn West, MD
    Reviewer: Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN
    Date Reviewed: 07/27/01

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