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How Effective Is Ciprofloxacin for Acne?

By Jamie Nedderman
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The primary uses of ciprofloxacin are treatment of infections caused by bacteria or anthrax. Ciprofloxacin helps some cases of acne by treating bacteria infections causing cyst-type acne. Several reasons not to use ciprofloxacin for acne include creating immunity to antibiotics, problems with tendinitis, and side effects ranging from minor stomach issues to breathing problems and depression. Ciprofoxacin also reacts with many other drugs, both prescription and over-the-counter medications, such as pain killers and supplements.

Ciprofloxacin is an antibiotic that treats the bacteria around the follicle, which often leads to cyst-like acne. Antibiotics also work by reducing chemicals produced by white blood cells, or by reducing the concentration of fatty acids that contribute to inflammation. It is considered to be a powerful antibiotic and often creates swift response to acne concerns.

One reason ciprofloxacin for acne may not be ideal is the possibility of the patient’s system creating immunity to antibiotics. This means that, when antibiotics are prescribed for infections, the medicine will be less effective. Doctors may find another medication or trials of other medications more appropriate before prescribing ciprofloxacin for acne.

The risks of ciprofloxacin for acne will need to be weighed against the benefits from taking the medication, since one of the main concerns is the increased occurrence of tendinitis or other tendon problems. Patients with myasthenia gravis will also need to be under close medical supervision to avoid breathing trouble or death. The advantages and disadvantages should be discussed with a medical professional, as the patients' medical history and lifestyle should be carefully analyzed prior to taking any medication.

Side effects of ciprofloxacin include stomach issues such as pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Headaches, problems with urination, and genital itching may also occur. If these side effects become severe, patients should contact their doctors. More problematic side effects are fainting, fever, joint problems, and depression, as well as throat tightness or swallowing difficulty, lack of energy and appetite, and others. If any of these are experienced, they should be brought immediately to the attention of medical professionals.

Ciprofloxacin drug interactions must also be considered. Serious problems may result from mixing ciprofloxacin with steroids, anticoagulants, and antidepressants, as well as medications containing caffeine, diuretics, and medications to treat irregular heartbeat. In addition, common drugs such as ibuprofen, naproxen, ropinirole, and more can also cause serious interactions. Some time is required between taking antacids and vitamin supplements and ciprofloxacin. For these reasons, a doctor and pharmacist must be provided a list of a patient’s medications taken both on a prescription basis and over-the-counter.

Why Would a Doctor Prescribe Ciprofloxacin?

Ciprofloxacin targets bacterial infections in different areas of the body. It comes in an oral liquid or tablet. If someone has inhalation exposure to anthrax, they can take Ciprofloxacin to treat anthrax infection. Another common use is the treatment and prevention of plague, including septicemic and pneumonic plague. 

In certain instances, doctors have prescribed Ciprofloxacin to treat acne vulgaris. The patient can use a combination of oral and topical Ciprofloxacin when prescribed. 

Ciprofloxacin belongs to a class of drugs called quinolone antibiotics, which stops bacteria growth. While proven to treat bacterial infections, it will not work for viral infections such as the common cold or flu.

Other than the treatment of acne, some of the most common reasons a doctor may prescribe Ciprofloxacin are:

  • Pneumonia
  • Gonorrhea
  • Typhoid fever
  • Infectious diarrhea
  • Infections of the bone, joint, skin, abdomen, and prostate gland
  • Sinus infections, Bronchitis, urinary tract infections(UTIs), or kidney infections

How Long Does Ciprofloxacin Take to Work?

Within hours of taking Ciprofloxacin, the antibiotic begins to work. However, you may not see any results of improvement of your symptoms for two to three days. Some infections may take up to a week before noticeable signs of progress. 

Specific actions can also delay the effectiveness of Ciprofloxacin. For example, regular consumption of dairy products can affect absorption, delaying how quickly Ciprofloxacin starts to work.

It is essential to complete the course of Ciprofloxacin as prescribed by your doctor. Even if you notice your symptoms have subsided, continuing until the course is complete will ensure the infection doesn’t return quickly.

What are some alternatives to Ciprofloxacin?

Ciprofloxacin has been proven effective at fighting bacterial infections such as acne and urinary tract infections. However, some people may be at risk for serious side effects and would like to discuss alternatives with their doctor.

Some of these alternatives are:

  • Trimethoprim
  • Sulfamethoxazole
  • Ampicillin
  • Levofloxacin
  • Nitrofurantoin
  • Fosfomycin trometamol
  • Pivmecillinam (not available in the U.S.)

However, some of these options have issues with bacterial resistance and will be taken into account by your doctor for your specific needs.

What Should I Let My Doctor Know Before Being Prescribed Ciprofloxacin?

If you have a primary doctor, they will have a medical history for you and use that information to decide whether Ciprofloxacin is a good choice for you. However, if you are seeing a doctor for the first time, you should let them know about certain pre-existing conditions that could hinder the effectiveness of Ciprofloxacin. 

If you have experienced the following, you should notify your doctor before taking Ciprofloxacin. 

  • Arthritis or issues with bones, tendons, or joints
  • Diabetes or low blood sugar
  • Nerve problems
  • Blood circulation problems or an aneurysm
  • Have suffered a heart attack or had heart problems
  • Muscle weakness
  • Kidney or liver disease
  • Seizures, head injuries, or brain tumor
  • Trouble swallowing pills
  • Long QT syndrome (or family history)
  • Your blood has low potassium levels

As with any prescribed medicine, let your doctor know if you are planning to become pregnant or are currently pregnant. You should not breastfeed while taking Ciprofloxacin.

What Are Some of the Pros and Cons of Ciprofloxacin?

Most medications prescribed by your doctor are entirely safe and have minimal side effects. However, there are benefits and risks for any medicine. Some of those are:

Pros

  • Treats many types of infections
  • Can be taken with or without food
  • Available as a tablet, oral liquid, or injection
  • Available as a generic

Cons

  • Potential serious side effects
  • Can make you sunburn easily
  • Interacts with many common medications
  • Can affect blood sugar levels if you have diabetes

Tips From Pharmacists

There is a lot of information about the risks and benefits of using Ciprofloxacin. First and foremost, listen and follow your doctor’s advice. Tell your doctor if you are taking any other medications because some medicine combinations will cancel each other out or cause adverse effects. 

If you are taking the extended-release version, make sure you don’t spit, crush, or chew the pill. Let your doctor know if you find it difficult to swallow pills.

If you are taking the liquid version, it doesn’t need to be refrigerated. You can store it at room temperature but shake it well before taking it. 

When you take Ciprofloxacin, you should drink plenty of fluids. However, you should limit caffeine consumption. You can take it with or without food, though food may help with nausea. In addition, you should avoid over-exposure to the sun while taking Ciprofloxacin and monitor your blood sugar.

If you suffer diarrhea from taking Ciprofloxacin, you can take probiotic supplements. However, you should allow at least an hour between the probiotic and Ciprofloxacin.

Even if you start feeling better, you should always finish all the medication prescribed. If you have adverse side effects at any point, you should contact your doctor. 

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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Discussion Comments
By anon998797 — On Aug 27, 2017

I just wanted to also post here and voice my opinion that ciprofloxacin has most definitely improved my long standing issues with acne, be it nodular, mild cystic acne, or just acne in general. I'm in my mid 20's and this problem has plagued my since I was a teen. Despite using a 10% benzo cream every day, I still have mild to moderate acne, mostly due to my overactive oil production.

I've been taking ciprofloxacin for the past several days, for completely unrelated reasons to acne, but noticed almost immediately that my current acne vanished. This seems to be a cure, but like andee said, perhaps a double-edged sword. I am very hesitant to take an antibiotic for an extended period of time, explained above. I just thought it was worth mentioning to others reading that might have similar problems to me that this indeed was a cure for my acne, yet I don't see myself continuing to take it unless my acne escalates to a point where I think the pros outweigh the cons.

By anon344375 — On Aug 09, 2013

Honest experience, no lie.

I have been taking Ciprofloxacin for almost a week now (five days) 500mg po bid (by mouth twice daily) along with an OTC 10 percent benzoyl peroxide (Clearasil Ultra Rapid Action Treatment Cream) product.I was already using the Clearasil before starting the treatment and it was only mildly effective at controlling my cystic acne.

Since the addition of the Ciprofloxacin treatment, there has been a noticeable change in the reduction of my cystic acne. I no longer see a whole lot of inflammation or redness in the affected areas and can safely assume that at this rate it won't be long (maybe a week or two more) before my moderate/severe acne is almost completely under control. I am very content with the results, although I must point out that I am a bit concerned about the possible effects that Cipro can have on your tendons (tendinitis) and possibly creating an antibiotic resistance. I did stop exercising to prevent any possible damage to a tendon, and will also complete the treatment for the entire duration, not simply stop midway and risk a possible return of the infection and creating an antibiotic resistance.

Also, I was originally prescribed Docycycline Hyclate, which may produce fewer side effects, but since I am a poor college student and don't have insurance (Doxycycline Hyclate is about $170 for a monthly 500mg po bid treatment, at Walmart Pharmacy) my doctor changed the prescription to Ciprofloxacin which qualifies for the $10 monthly prescription at most Walmart stores.

Weigh out the cost, the benefits and the side effects. If you can afford the Doxycycline Hyclate. I would suggest you go with that instead, which is just as effective and has fewer side effects) but if you don't have much money to spare, Ciprofloxacin is a good choice. Just take care of yourself. Don't work out so hard that you might hurt a tendon and please, complete the whole regimen to avoid creating antibiotic resistance with the infection coming back only stronger.

Hope this helps someone! Best wishes my friends.

By John57 — On Aug 09, 2012

@andee-- You are fortunate the only side effect you had with this medication was a headache. I wasn't so lucky. After about a week of taking the ciprofloxacin, I had a bad reaction.

I was short of breath and my joints hurt all over. My doctor told me to stop taking it right away. I wasn't able to take it long enough to see if it would help with my acne or not.

I don't usually have a reaction like that to medication, but that kind of scared me.

By andee — On Aug 08, 2012

I was willing to try taking ciprofloxacin because of the type of acne I had. My acne was more than just pimples, but looked like red cysts on my face. When your face looks like this, it is hard to feel confident about yourself, and I was willing to risk the side effects to have a clear complexion.

The ciprofoxacin did clear up my acne, and the only side effect I had was a mild headache. For me, this was well worth it.

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