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Erythromycin for Acne Treatment

author image Leigh Ann Morgan
Leigh Ann Morgan began working as a writer in 2004. She has extensive experience in the business field having served as the manager of a $34 million rental property portfolio. Morgan also appeared as a guest on an episode of National Public Radio's "Marketplace Money" in 2005.
Erythromycin for Acne Treatment
Erythryomycin kills the bacteria that cause acne. Photo Credit: BWFolsom/iStock/Getty Images

Acne occurs when dirt, oil and bacteria clog pores in the skin. This causes the formation of whiteheads, pimples, blackheads or cysts. In some cases, acne requires treatment with antibiotics to kill the bacteria and reduce the appearance of acne blemishes. Discuss the benefits and risks of erythromycin with your doctor to determine if it would improve your condition.

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Erythromycin has topical and oral forms to kill bacteria. Applied directly to the skin, the topical version comes in gel, solution, ointment, lotion, pad and swab forms. Oral erythromycin also has several forms, including tablets, long-acting tablets, capsules, long-acting capsules, liquid and chewable tablets. Your doctor determines which formulation will treat your acne more effectively. Some topical drugs contain a combination of erythromycin and benzoyl peroxide, which prevents clogged pores by removing dead skin cells. Benzoyl peroxide also kills bacteria, preventing inflammation that leads to acne.


Discuss your medical history with your doctor before taking oral erythromycin. This drug causes problems for people with some chronic diseases and medical conditions. Tell your doctor if you have kidney disease, myasthenia gravis, liver disease, low levels of magnesium or potassium in the bloodstream (hypokalemia), slow heartbeat, QT prolongation (a heart abnormality) or heart failure. Do not use this medication during pregnancy unless your doctor specifically recommends it.


Use the erythromycin dosage prescribed by your doctor. The National Institutes of Health recommends taking this drug at least one hour before meals or two hours after meals. Avoid taking erythromycin with carbonated drinks and fruit juices. If you miss a dose of oral erythromycin, take it as soon as you remember. Skip the missed dose if it is close to the time scheduled for the next dose. Do not take two pills at once to make up for the skipped dose.

Side Effects

Topical and oral forms of erythromycin have several side effects. PDRhealth reports that the side effects of the topical form include dryness, irritation of the eyes, peeling skin, tenderness, scaling, burning sensation, oiliness and hives. Side effects of oral erythromycin include nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, dizziness, stomach pain, fatigue, headache, skin rash, vaginal discharge and vaginal itching.

Drug Interactions

Oral erythromycin interacts with several other drugs, increasing the risks associated with this antibiotic. Tell your doctor if you take digoxin, Xanax, Viagra, blood thinners or other antibiotics. Oral erythromycin also interacts with bromocriptine, cyclosporine, quinidine, carbamazepine, ergotamine and verapamil.


Erythromycin makes the skin more sensitive to sunlight, which makes it easier to get sunburned. recommends using a sunscreen with SPF 15 and wearing protective clothing during long periods of sun exposure. This drug enters breast milk, so talk to your doctor before deciding to breast-feed your baby.

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