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Bactrim to Treat Acne

author image J.M. Andrews
J.M. Andrews has been a professional journalist for more than 20 years. She specializes in health and medical content for consumers and health professionals. Andrews' background in medicine and science has earned her credits in a wide range of online and print publications, including "Young Physicians" magazine.
Bactrim to Treat Acne
Bactrim may treat acne that hasn't responded to other antibiotics.

If you have acne-covered skin, you may have tried just about every medication—both over-the-counter and prescription to clear your complexion. Dermatologists generally prescribe oral antibiotics such as tetracycline for severe acne that doesn't respond to topical treatments, but some cases won't even clear with those medications. If you and your dermatologist have found that your acne resists common antibiotics, you might need to try a different type of antibiotic, such as Bactrim.

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When acne appears, it's because excess oil produced by your skin has clogged your pores, according to Clogged pores start out as blackheads and whiteheads, but as they become infected with bacteria, they tend to swell, creating pus-filled pimples. Bacterial infection worsens acne and can cause severe inflammatory acne, which often leads to scars.


Bactrim, which is a sulfa-based antibiotic, contains the active ingredients sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim, according to In addition to acne treatment, physicians prescribe the medication to treat certain types of pneumonia, bronchitis and ear infections. Bactrim fights pimples by helping the body disable and kill the bacteria that helps to cause severe acne. It does not help to clear your pores or make your skin less oily.


If your dermatologist prescribes Bactrim for your acne, you should take it exactly as directed, or you'll risk it losing its effectivenessn. Some people develop severe reactions to Bactrim, which can involve fever, skin rash and headache, according to If you experience any of these symptoms, you should contact your physician immediately. Less serious but more common side effects include dizziness or a feeling of spinning, a swollen tongue, ringing in your ears or joint pain.


Bactrim and other drugs containing sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim can effectively treat severe acne even when other antibiotics have failed. In a study led by Dr. C.B. Turowski at the Drexel University College of Medicine, researchers looked at acne treatment with sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim to treat acne patients who hadn't responded to other oral antibiotics. The study, published in 2007 in "Advances in Dermatology," concluded that sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim helped to clear acne in these patients.


Because Bactrim is quite powerful and can cause severe allergic reactions, dermatologists generally reserve it for patients whose acne hasn't responded to other oral antibiotics. In addition, you'll likely need to continue using topical medications, such as retinoids, to get the best results from Bactrim. In the study performed at Drexel, patients all used topical pore-clearing prescription medications in addition to sulfamethoxazole-trimethoprim to help treat their acne.

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