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Oral Erythromycin

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Updated April 16, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Treating Acne with Oral Erythromycin:

Oral erythromycin is an antibiotic used to treat moderate to severe inflammatory acne, and/or acne that isn’t getting better with other treatments. Erythromycin has been used for years to treat acne, although newer antibiotics are the more popular choice today.

Besides acne, erythromycin is used to treat a wide variety of conditions, from ear infections to rosacea. It’s a prescription medication and there is no over-the-counter alternative.

Erythromycin is also used topically to treat acne.

How It Works:

Erythromycin works to improve acne by reducing the amount of acne-causing bacteria, called propionibacteria acnes, on the skin. It also lessens inflammation and redness.

You’ve probably heard about the growing problem of bacterial resistance caused by the overuse of antibiotics. Because of this, some people find their acne doesn’t respond to erythromycin treatment.

Still, erythromycin is a better antibiotic option for pregnant or breastfeeding moms. It also can be used by younger children because, unlike some of the other oral antibiotics, it won’t cause tooth discoloration.

Other Oral Antibiotics Used to Treat Acne:

Common Usage Directions:

Usually, you will take erythromycin twice per day. It can be taken with or without food.

Possible Side Effects:

If you develop severe stomach pain or severe diarrhea, let your doctor know right away.

Tips for Treating Acne with Oral Erythromycin:

  • Upset stomach? Taking erythromycin with food can help.
  • Oral antibiotics work best when there is a steady amount of the medication in the body. Do your best to take your medication at regular times and try not to skip doses.
  • Make sure you take the entire course prescribed, even if your acne clears up. Tell your doc if your acne isn’t improving at all, or gets better for a while but then returns.
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