In the last blog post we reviewed how oral antibiotics can be useful for acne on your back and that certain antibiotics can sometimes be very effective in treating this kind of acne. One of the things that we discussed was the fact that antibiotics for back acne can sometimes have uncommon or rare side effects. In this blog post, we’ll discuss some of the more important potential side effects of the more common antibiotics that we use for treating this form of acne. This information is not meant to scare anyone. Rather, it’s just important that everyone understand the possible risks, no matter how small, that can accompany any treatment that is being considered for back acne.
Everyone understands that any new medicine can have an unwanted or unexpected side effect so it is very important to take the time to become comfortable with the possible side effects of any new medication for back acne. An important disclaimer is that the potential side effects included in this blog post are not comprehensive and do not include every possible side effect that can occur. It’s very important for every patient to discuss the possible side effects of a proposed medication with their doctor before they begin treatment.
While the common antibiotics used to treat back acne are fairly safe, they do have some possible and important side effects that should be emphasized. For example, one possible side effect of many oral antibiotics is the development of sensitivity to the sun. This is called “photosensitivity“. This side effect can occur with doxycycline, minocycline and tetracycline. Therefore, these antibiotics should not be given to patients who will be receiving significant sun exposure, such as those who work outside in direct sunlight or participate in outdoor sports. This is common for teenagers who are on various high school sports teams such as football, track, baseball, etc. We see many of these patients at the Advanced Acne Institute and prescribe antibiotics that do not cause photosensivity. We also recommend the use of sunscreen and clothing that protects from the sun while taking any antibiotics.
The tetracycline group of antibiotics used for acne can also cause staining of the teeth and may affect bone growth. Therefore, they are not prescribed for children under 10 years of age who are at greatest risk of these side effects. Additional rare side effects of this group of antibiotics include a condition called “pseudotumor cerebri” which is a condition in which there is an increased pressure build up around the brain. It is associated with severe headaches and vision disturbances and is a medical emergency. Another rare occurrence is the development of skin discoloration which can be permanent. Another unwanted effect is the development of a lupus-like syndrome associated with minocycline. Another potential side effect of minocycline is lupus, or systemic lupus erythematosis, is an autoimmune condition in which the body begins to react against itself.
Minocycline can also induce a rare reaction including fever, enlarged lymph nodes and inflammation of the liver. Another rare reaction called Stevens Johnson Syndrome can be associated with the antibiotic trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole when used for acne as well as for any other indication. The severe forms of this reaction can result in hospitalization and can be life threatening. Some antibiotics can interfere with the ability of birth control pills to prevent pregnancy, although this side effect is controversial. Finally, as is the case with any new medication that you may take, there is no way to know if you will experience one or more side effects.
Overall, however, antibiotic treatment for acne is generally safe.