Many healthcare professionals will prescribe a pill form of tetracycline for acne that is moderate to severe. The dosage is usually low, around 500 to 1,000 mg each day, and the treatment is usually over the span of months to years. Some of the advantages of taking tetracycline include dramatic reduction of acne in some patients, a decrease in swelling and inflammation associated with cystic acne, and results that last for a long period of time. Some of the main disadvantages of using this drug include usage constraints as well as side effects including sun sensitivity, tooth discoloration, and nausea.
For patients who have found topical acne treatment to be unsuccessful, tetracycline and tetracycline derivatives, such as doxycycline and minocycline, may greatly reduce the problem. These antibiotics work by killing the types of bacteria associated with acne flare-ups. They also act to lessen the inflammation associated with pustular and cystic acne, flattening the surface of acne cysts and making the acne less noticeable. Taking tetracycline for several months or years has also been found to prevent future acne in addition to reducing existing pimples. Another advantage of taking this drug is the ability to combine it with topical treatments for more severe cases, so that acne is being combated by two different methods.
Tetracycline side effects sometimes outweigh the benefits, and some patients find themselves experiencing gastric distress or nausea after taking the pill. Since this medication is most effective when taken on an empty stomach, patients might experience sensitivity to it without the buffering effects of food. Additionally, tetracycline is an antibiotic that might harm natural intestinal bacteria, creating gastric distress over the long term. A few patients might experience yeast infections as a result of tetracycline’s antibiotic effects that reduce the number of natural vaginal bacteria. Sun sensitivity and tooth discoloration are also side effects that some patients will experience.
The usage constraints of tetracycline also might dissuade some patients from taking the drug. Pregnant women are strongly cautioned against taking tetracycline, as it could cause tooth discoloration or even bone defects in the developing baby. Breastfeeding mothers should also avoid it, as it can be passed on to the nursing baby through the breast milk causing poor tooth and bone development. Tetracycline is also inactivated by dairy products or food that contains calcium, iron, or zinc, and some patients find this constraint to be difficult when taking it.