Acne Treatment: Balancing Effectiveness and Side Effects

As if just having a bad case of acne weren't trouble enough, a study published in early 2006 discovered that treating acne can lead to twice the risk of developing a sore throat.

The culprit appears to be the ubiquitous antibiotic prescriptions for acne, whether for use on the skin or by mouth. The bacteria P. acnes plays a central role in the development of acne, so it's no wonder that antibiotics have been one of the most effective tools doctors have in treating acne.

But, according to the study of 118,496 acne patients (LDI Issue Brief 2006 Feb;11(4):1-4), risk of developing an upper respiratory infection doubles if an antibiotic is taken for six weeks or more.

If you have acne, what are the practical implications? Without an antibiotic prescription, your risk of developing a sore throat is about 1 in 10. Not bad. But, with the antibiotics - whether oral or topical - your risk shoots to 1 in 5.

Unfortunately, that's on top of the risks that were already known about. Such as yeast infections, heartburn, sun sensitivity and, perhaps most importantly, the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

This study spotlights a central challenge in treating acne. The patient is frequently forced to choose between two difficult options. On the one hand, without treatment (or with suboptimal treatment), acne continues to diminish the quality of life with its discomfort, decreased self-confidence and potential long-term scarring.

On the other hand, most acne treatments are associated with troublesome side effects. This study underscores some of the problems with antibiotics. Other acne prescriptions have their own frustrating side effects, like Accutane, Retin-A and others. So do over-the-counter acne medications like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid and sulfur.
Tip! Amy-Jo Strutt is a successful beauty writer and regular contributor to an online resource to help you find the very best acne, acne treatment and acne skin care information.

As a consequence, an integral part of all acne care is finding the balance between those extremes. Prior to this study, dermatologists were already implementing strategies to limit the use of antibiotics as much as possible - while still keeping it in balance with satisfactory control of the acne. Since the study's appearance, many dermatologists are increasing those efforts, for example by decreasing the frequency of dosing.

Those relying on over-the-counter acne medications are also discovering advances that help them find the happy medium. Benzoyl peroxide is a very effective acne medication, but can cause redness, irritation and flakiness. The recent development of time-release benzoyl peroxide allows the effect to be more gradual, lessening the irritation.

Another innovative technology, Acne Recovery, allows the acne user to adjust the strength of benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid medications. With that adjustment, users are able to find the ideal balance for their skin's unique needs.
Tip! The topical acne treatment is also intended to remove oils and bacteria that are present in pimples. The topical medicine pulls the dirt and oil out of the pores, helping the affected area to heal quickly.

Acne takes a significant toll on its victims, both physical and psychological. And, while the search for balance can be frustrating, excellent treatment options exist for all acne sufferers.

Randall Wilkinson, MD is CEO of Trienelle Skincare, Inc. He and his team led the development of the new, adjustable Acne Recovery System for the treatment of adult acne and teen acne.

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