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Medical Treatments for Acne

By: Jody Ehrhardt - Updated: 19 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Treatments For Acne Severe Acne Mild

If you suffer with severe acne or if your mild acne has not responded to traditional over-the-counter medications it may be time to see your doctor about the use of medical treatments for acne. Your doctor, or a dermatologist, can talk to you about available acne treatment plans and set you on a course for clearer, better looking skin. Depending on your type of acne and the severity of your condition, your dermatologist may suggest a topical treatment, an internal treatment, acne surgery, or a combination of these treatments.

Topical Treatment Choices

Most prescription topical treatments for acne are very similar to those that can be purchased over-the-counter. The difference is that the prescription creams, gels, or lotions usually contain a stronger dose of the active ingredient. Examples of these include any treatment that contains benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, or sulphur as the main active ingredient.

When an even stronger medication is called for doctors usually turn to the use of Retin-A. The topical retinoid medication known as Tazorac is a prescription cream that contains Retin-A in prescription strength. This is a popular choice for many dermatologists, especially at the beginning of a patient's treatment. The use of the cream has a drying effect on the skin that clears up eruptions and can cause redness, peeling, and irritation at the beginning of treatment. Once these side effects cease many patients usually see good results in the clearing of their acne.

Other topical prescription choices include the use of azelaic acid or adapalene. Azelaic acid contains antibacterial properties and works to reduce inflammation. Adapalene uses synthetic retinoids as the active ingredient and may be more effective than Tazaorac.

Another prescription choice is the use of topical antibiotics. Since acne can be caused by an infection in or on the skin antibiotics can be used to kill the infection. Topical antibiotics are usually not used alone but make great additions to any chosen acne treatment plan.

Internal Treatment Choices

If the use of topical medications does not bring about the desired results many dermatologists turn to the prescribing of internal drugs. These medications are usually used in combination with topical treatments but can be used alone. The most common internal medication choice is oral antibiotics. Again, since acne can be caused by infection, many doctors like to treat the infection from the inside with a dose of antibiotics. As with the topical version, these medications also have an anti-inflammatory quality that can further help acne heal. Two examples of this type of treatment include Tetracycline and Erythromycin.

Another internal treatment choice that is usually reserved for severe cases of acne is the use of corticosteroids. Corticosteroids are the man-made form of cortisone. This medication reduces inflammation and may also lessen the severity of each outbreak. However, since these drugs have numerous potential side effects their usage is usually limited.

For female suffers of acne, birth control pills are sometimes prescribed as part of a treatment regimen. The hormone balancing properties and the male hormone suppressing properties of these drugs has been shown to regulate oil production and decrease acne breakouts.

Finally, the acne drug Accutane, which includes a synthetic form of vitamin A, is a popular choice for treatment of severe or hard to treat acne. This drug works to suppress sebum, or oil production, and reduce acne inflammation. Since this drug also features significant side effects it is best used as a last resort medication.

When All Else Fails

If topical treatment plans, internal treatment plans, or a combination of the two fail to reduce the severity or occurrence of acne, dermatologists may choose to pursue more aggressive treatments. These treatments include acne surgery, dermabrasion, cortisone injections, chemical peels, and ultraviolet light exposure.

Acne surgery is a medical procedure that is performed in the office of a dermatologist. In this procedure a small blade or needle is used to open the acne lesion and remove the infectious contents. While this procedure may cure the current outbreak it does nothing to stop the appearance of new lesions or eruptions.

Dermabrasion, or skin peeling, is a surgical procedure that removes skin that has been damaged by acne. This procedure smoothes the appearance of the skin making acne scars less noticeable but is not very effective in healing current acne outbreaks or preventing future ones.

Cortisone injections are used to treat large acne cysts or nodules and work very well at improving the severity of the condition. In these procedures a diluted form of corticosteroid is injected directly into the lesion where it dries up the outbreak and speeds healing. This procedure works well when used in conjunction with other acne treatment plans.

Chemical peels are similar to dermabrasion techniques in that they kill the top layers of infected skin and lead to the rebuilding of new, fresh skin cells. This procedure can help to reduce the occurrence of acne and improve the look of old acne scars. However, the healing time required after this procedure is long and the peeling is hard to disguise and sometimes painful to deal with. Because of these side effects this procedure is best used for severe acne or extremely hard to treat eruptions.

Finally, ultraviolet light exposure is recommended by some dermatologists as a way to kill infected skin cells in order to make room for the growth of new, pure cells. Since the dead cells could build up on the surface of skin, clogging more pores and causing further outbreaks, it is recommended that this procedure be used in conjunction with a cream or treatment that removes these destroyed cells. Also, since sun exposure is know to cause skin cancer, premature aging, and even acne, this procedure is best left as a last resort.

The Best Course of Treatment

The best course of medical treatment for acne is the one that works well for you. This is why it is extremely important to talk over all of your options with a doctor or dermatologist, and then to follow the treatment plan exactly. What is effective for one person may not be as effective for you so it is best to try different treatments, give each one a chance to work, and ultimately find the combination that works best for you.

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