Antiacne drugs

Anti-acne drugs are medicines that help clear up pimples, blackheads, whiteheads, and more severe forms of acne. Acne is a skin condition in which pores or hair follicles become blocked. This allows a waxy material, sebum, to collect inside the pores or follicles. As a result, small swellings develop on theskin surface. Bacteria and dead skin cells can collect, causing inflammation. Swellings that are small and not inflamed are whiteheads or blackheads. When they become inflamed, they turn into pimples. Pimples that fill with pus are called pustules.

People who have certain medical conditions or who are taking other medicinesmay have problems if they use antiacne drugs. Before using these products, besure to let the physician know about any allergies, pregnancy, breastfeeding, eczema, or any other conditions such as alcoholism, diabetes, or high cholesterol or high triglyceride levels.

Benzoyl peroxide and tretinoin work by mildly irritating the skin. This encourages skin cells to slough off, which helps open blocked pores. Benzoyl peroxide also kills bacteria, which helps prevent whiteheads and blackheads from turning into pimples.

Benzoyl peroxide is found in many over-the-counter acne products that are applied to the skin. Some benzoyl peroxide products are available without a physician's prescription; others require a prescription. Tretinoin (Retin-A) requires a physician's prescription and comes in liquid, cream, and gel forms, which are applied to the skin.

Anti-acne drugs such as benzoyl peroxide and tretinoin may irritate the skinslightly. The face should only be washed with mild soap and water two or three times a day, unless the physician says otherwise. Abrasive soaps should beavoided, as should cleansers and products that dry the skin or make it peel,such as medicated cosmetics, cleansers that contain alcohol, or other acne products. Tretinoin may increase sensitivity to sunlight, so it is best to avoid exposure to the sun and not use tanning beds, tanning booths, or sunlamps.

The most common side effects of anti-acne drugs applied to the skin are slight redness, dryness, peeling, and stinging, and a warm feeling to the skin. These problems usually go away as the body adjusts to the drug and do not require medical treatment.

Other side effects should be brought to a physician's attention:

  • Blistering, crusting or swelling of the skin
  • Severe burning or redness ofthe skin
  • Darkening or lightening of the skin
  • Skin rash.

Patients using anti-acne drugs on their skin should tell their physicians ifthey are using any other prescription or nonprescription (over-the-counter) medicine that they apply to the skin in the same area.

Isotretinoin (Accutane), which is taken by mouth in capsule form, is available only with a physician's prescription. Isotretinoin shrinks the glands thatproduce sebum. This medicine cannot be used during pregnancy, because it causes birth defects. Patients who use isotretinoin usually take the medicine fora few months, then stop for at least two months. If the condition is still severe, the physician may prescribe a second course of treatment.

Isotretinoin may cause a sudden decrease in night vision. This medicine may also make the eyes, nose, and mouth very dry. Isotretinoin may also increase sensitivity to sunlight, and patients should avoid exposure to the sun and should not use tanning beds, tanning booths, or sunlamps.

In the early stages of treatment with isotretinoin, some people's acne seemsto get worse before it starts getting better. If the condition becomes much worse or if the skin is very irritated, check with the physician who prescribed the medicine.

Bowel inflammation is not a common side effect, but it may occur with isotretinoin use. If any of the following signs occur, stop taking isotretinoin immediately and check with a physician:

  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Bleeding from the rectum
  • Severe diarrhea.

Other side effects of isotretinoin that require medical attention include:

  • Burning, redness, or itching of the eyes
  • Nosebleeds
  • Signs of inflammation of the lips, such as peeling, burning, redness or pain.

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