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Depending on the extent of the acne problem, the doctor may recommend one of several over-the-counter (OTC) medicines and/or prescription medicines. Some of these medicines may be topical (applied to the skin), and others may be oral (taken by mouth). The doctor may suggest using more than one topical medicine or combining oral and topical medicines.
Treatment for Blackheads, Whiteheads, and Mild Inflammatory Acne
There are several OTC topical medicines used for mild acne. Each works a little differently. Following are the most common ones:
Treatment for Moderate to Severe Inflammatory Acne
Several types of prescription medicines are used to treat acne. They include:
Treatment for Severe Nodular or Cystic Acne
For patients with severe inflammatory acne that does not improve with medicines such as those described above, a doctor may prescribe isotretinoin (Accutane), a retinoid (vitamin A derivative). Isotretinoin is an oral drug that is usually taken once or twice a day with food for 15 to 20 weeks. It markedly reduces the size of the oil glands so that much less oil is produced. As a result, the growth of bacteria is decreased.
Advantages of Isotretinoin (Accutane)
Isotretinoin is a very effective medicine that can help prevent scarring. After 15 to 20 weeks of treatment with isotretinoin, acne completely or almost completely goes away in most patients. In those patients where acne recurs after a course of isotretinoin, the doctor may institute another course of the same treatment or prescribe other medicines.
Disadvantages of Isotretinoin (Accutane)
Isotretinoin may cause the following side effects:
There have been a number of reported suicides and suicide attempts in people taking isotretinoin; however, the connection between isotretinoin and suicide or depression is not known.