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Upping the Ante: Treating Acne with Oral Antibiotics

Oral antibiotics have been a mainstream acne medication for several years now, often with positive results. But if acne is a disease of the sebaceous glands, how do anti-bacterial drugs help? Many descriptions of the causes of acne place the blame squarely on oil production in the skin. While it is true that excess sebum can play a role in creating acne, this isn't the entire story. This article explores the relationship between acne and bacteria, and the role that antibiotics can play in effective acne treatment.

The human body is covered in sebaceous glands. In fact, sebaceous glands can be found anywhere there are hair follicles! These glands have an important role in the skin, through the production of sebum. In healthy skin, sebum is produced in the gland and travels up the hair follicle to the surface of the skin where it acts as a natural moisturizer and protects the skin from environmental damage. If the pore becomes blocked, however, either by dead skin cells or excess sebum, sebum production within the sebaceous gland continues, causing the blocked follicle to swell. In addition to sebum, the follicle also contains natural skin bacteria, Propionibacterium acnes. These bacteria reproduce, which some experts think attracts leukocytes (white blood cells) to the follicle, triggering a vigorous immune response. It is this immune response that often causes the inflammation associated with acne blemishes, and can even contribute to scars.

So there you have it. Acne is not the product of any single factor, but the result of several conditions all coexisting at the same time, and in the same place. So how can oral antibiotics prevent acne?

When taken to combat acne, oral antibiotics are meant to accomplish two things. They are supposed to reduce the bacteria count on the skin's surface and within the follicles, which then helps them accomplish their second function as inflammation control of already infected follicles. Because of the potential for side-effects and to avoid bacteria becoming resistant to treatment, antibiotics are often prescribed only after other more mild topical treatments have failed to produce results and clear up the skin.

Antibiotics may take care of the bacteria load, but treating acne is usually a multi-disciplinary process. Even without bacteria, the skin pores may still become clogged, and as soon as the antibacterial treatment is stopped the problem may start all over again. For this reason, it is still important to have good skin care habits to take care of the other sources of acne. A simple step recommended by most dermatologists is washing the face no more than twice a day with a gentle cleanser. This can help slough off old skin cells, preventing pores from getting clogged in the first place, in addition to removing excess oil from the skin.

If you're on oral antibiotics for your acne and want to address the other causes of acne blemishes, it is important to talk to your doctor or dermatologist. They will be able to help you create a multi-faceted plan to address the specific causes of your acne while taking into consideration your skin type and current medications. Certain products should not be taken together, so always follow a physician's guidance in this matter.

About the Author: Author C. L. Jackson wishes the topic of acne was simply an academic interest ... but unfortunately thatís not the case! You'll find much more information on this topic at the author's website

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