The University of Chicago Medical Center website reports that chronic acne frequently accompanies the rise in male sex hormones that occurs during puberty in both boys and girls. These hormones cause the sebaceous glands to increase oil production, which clogs the hair follicles and results in pimples and zits.

If your acne is moderate to severe, your dermatologist may suggest an oral medication to control your condition. While oral contraceptives can counter high androgen levels in women, sexual and other side effects render them unsuitable for men. There are, however, other oral medication options for men who suffer from chronic acne.


The antibiotic tetracycline controls acne by killing the Propionibacterium acnes bacteria that grows inside a plugged hair follicle and causes inflammation. Taking tetracycline to control acne, however, can produce side effects, such as diarrhea, colitis and an increased resistance to antibiotics. Therefore, recommends that you take the medication only until your acne condition improves, and then taper off. Tell your doctor if you have liver or kidney disease, as these conditions may be a contraindication. Also, tetracycline may cause your skin to be extra sensitive to sunlight and artificial ultraviolet rays, so avoid tanning beds and lamps and wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher when outdoors.


Another antibiotic commonly prescribed to control acne is erythromycin. Erythromycin slows the production of proteins that allow acne-causing bacteria to grow. Like tetracycline and other antibiotics, erythromycin can cause uncomfortable side effects, such as upset stomach, dizziness and diarrhea. It can cause the skin to be extra sensitive to sun, as well.

Allergic reactions to erythromycin can produce serious symptoms such as chest pain, irregular heartbeats, fainting, jaundice and diarrhea with blood in it. Contact your doctor immediately if these or other serious symptoms occur.

Also, other medications and supplements can interact negatively with erythromycin, notes Consequently, tell your doctor about any medications you are currently taking and don't start taking any new drugs without first discussing them with your doctor.


For some severe acne conditions that produce deep cysts, antibiotics may be ineffective. According to, the oral retinoid isotretinoin may get these conditions under control. The medication reduces oil production and increases cell turnover, which can reduce the number of acne lesions that develop. While the medication effectively treats most acne conditions, it can produce several adverse effects, some of which are quite serious. Therefore, your doctor will need to closely monitor your health while on the medication. Common side effects associated with isotretinoin include dry eyes and skin, nosebleeds, muscle aches and impaired night vision. Isotretinoin use may also increase the risk of depression or suicide. For that reason, tell your doctor immediately if you notice any depressive symptoms.

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About the Author

Claire McAdams

Based in Los Angeles, Claire McAdams has been writing professionally since 2006. Her work has appeared in "The Tennessean" and also online at and She holds a Bachelor of Music Degree from Belmont University and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History and Political Science from King College.