Guest Blog By VeganAcneSufferers
Antibiotics are usually one of the first things that a doctor will prescribe you for your acne. In fact, you may be hard pressed to get any other prescription from your doctor aside from antibiotics. They tend to keep pushing - one course didn't work, well let's try another. That course didn't work, let's try a new antibiotic. That one didn't work either, well let's do a longer course.
Doctors are quite content to keep you on an antibiotic treatment long term.
In fact, Nagler, Milam and Orlow (2015) found that the average duration of antibiotic use in acne patients was 331.3 days, with 64.2% of patients being on antibiotics for 6 months or more, and 33.6% having been on antibiotics for 1 year or more. The researchers found that patients actually had extended exposure to antibiotics, far exceeding recommendations. Anyone who has ever taken antibiotics for an actual bacterial infection knows that courses of antibiotics are usually only 7-10 days in length (however, some chronic illnesses do require long-term therapy - but the benefits of long-term therapy usually far outweigh the risks).
This excessive exposure can lead to other health issues far more serious than acne.
1. Antibiotic use can lead to autoimmune diseases.
One case study saw an 18-year-old girl being treated with minocycline for acne, resulting in drug-induced lupus, a chronic, autoimmune disease.
Another study reported 3 patients with minocycline-induced autoimmunity resulting in peripheral nerve vasculitis.
2. Antibiotics also kill good bacteria along with the bad.
This will disturb the balance of gut flora, contributing to gastrointestinal distress. Again, anyone who has ever been on long-term antibiotic therapy will know that gastrointestinal distress is a very common symptom. This disturbance results in diminishing the natural defense mechanisms provided by the colonic microbial ecosystem, making the host vulnerable to infection by commensal microorganisms or nosocomial pathogens. This can further exacerbate your acne situation in the long-run, as well.
3. Increases antibiotic resistance
One of the biggest risks of antibiotic use where it is not necessary is a community risk, that of increased antibiotic resistance. The more often antibiotics are prescribed, the longer we are exposed to them, the more types we are exposed to, the more likely an organism will develop resistance. People with weakened immune systems are at serious risk if they become infected with drug-resistant organisms, and otherwise healthy individuals can die or experience serious medical complications with a resistant infection. In some cases, microorganisms have become resistant to multiple antibiotics - this poses a very serious health risk.
The intensive use of antibiotics in areas where they are not warranted (in animal agriculture, coughs and colds, acne) led to antimicrobial-resistant strains becoming one of the main health issues worldwide.
4. An Ineffective Treatment
In many patients with acne, continued treatment with antibiotics can not only be inappropriate, but also wildly ineffective. In fact, some 82% of patients fail multiple courses of antibiotic treatments. This is an alarming rate of failure, and if anything else had this failure rate we would surely stop prescribing it for that particular condition.
This is because bacteria are not necessarily the root cause of acne - it may exacerbate acne, but it's not always there at the beginning. And in specific circumstances where bacteria are the cause, long-term antibiotic therapy is unnecessary.
At the very most, it is likely safe to attempt one short course of antibiotics - and if the acne doesn’t go away, or it comes back once you stop taking it, then antibiotics are never going to be the solution to your acne problem, and you should avoid them for this purpose.
I first got acne in high school, and it came back in my early adulthood. I was able to struggle through those difficult times and come out of it a stronger, wiser, healthier person as a result. I'm here to help you do the same thing!