Oral Contraceptives for Acne

In some cases of acne, oral contraceptives have been found to very helpful. It is believed that a high level of the male sex hormones, testosterone may play a role in causing acne. Thus, some physicians have started to prescribe oral contraceptives as a treatment of acne. It is believed that the female sex hormones counter the male hormones and reduce acne. These hormones significantly reduce the oil production from the glands.

The oral contraceptive pill is limited for use in females. The low dose birth control pills such as Estrostep and TriCyclen have been the most prescribed agents for acne.

The oral contraceptives do not work right away and the results often take months to appear. However, for those who do respond, the skin is much softer, fresher and cleaner. The results are obvious after 3-4 months of use of the pill. Most individuals claim to have no residual acne scars either.

Unfortunately, birth control pills do not resolve acne in all women. For these women, other methods of acne treatment have to be used.

However, birth control pills are not without side effects. The most common side effects reported after these pills include:

- weight gain

- nausea- the most common

- breast tenderness

Other rare side effects of oral contraceptives include:

• Nausea, vomiting

• stomach cramps or bloating

• diarrhea or constipation

• increased appetite/weight gain

• skin discoloration (brown or black skin patches)

• excess hair growth

• changes in menstrual flow

• breast tenderness

• breast engorgement

• nipple discharge

• headaches

• vaginal discharge

• swelling in the legs or calf pain

If any of the above side effects persist, the physician should be notified.

Oral contraceptives are usually not the first choice treatment for acne. They are only used after other conservative methods including topical agents and antibiotics have failed. Since the Retinoids have been associated with risk to the fetus during pregnancy, some doctors prefer to prescribe oral contraceptives for the treatment of acne.

Oral contraceptives for acne treatment in women are generally prescribed for

- women under between the ages of 20-35

- not smokers

- no history of migraines

- those who do not have high blood pressure

- those who have no history of blood clots in the legs

All women who take the birth control pill for acne are regularly examined.

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