What are the Most Common Uses for Erythromycin Gel?

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  • Written By: Lee Johnson
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 04 April 2020
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Erythromycin gel is most commonly used for the treatment of acne. The gel is a topical macrolide antibiotic that is believed to reduce the amount of the bacteria responsible for the appearance of pimples, although this has not been empirically proven to be the reason for the gel’s effectiveness. The gel also generally contains a large amount of alcohol, which dries out any additional oils from the skin.

Acne vulgaris is a common condition in teenagers, and it typically reaches peak levels between the ages of 17 and 19, although some particularly susceptible individuals may experience acne up until the age of 40. It is caused by the inflammation of sebaceous glands, which are found around face and chest hairs. This is generally caused by the levels of male hormones called androgens increasing during puberty in both males and females. The principal use of erythromycin gel is the treatment of acne.

Erythromycin gel should generally be applied to the affected area twice a day after washing with soap and water. A thin coating of the gel is all that is required; applying too much may result in the increased likelihood of side effects. This medication should be kept clear of the mouth and eyes. It should also be used at around the same time each day.


The believed effect of erythromycin gel is that it attacks the bacteria associated with acne by preventing them from producing essential proteins. These proteins are required for the growth and spreading of the bacteria, so when they are removed, the bacteria’s numbers are frozen. This means that no new spots will form, and in time, the body will remove all traces of the remaining bacteria.

In its pure form, erythromycin is a white or slightly yellow crystalline powder. It is generally formed into erythromycin gel by the addition of alcohol. The gel typically contains about 2 percent pure erythromycin, and the remainder is usually made up of alcohol and hydroxypropyl cellulose. Erythromycin gel should be avoided by anyone allergic to these components.

The side effects of erythromycin gel include burning sensation, dryness of the skin, mild stinging, and peeling of the skin. These are common side effects, and are only cause for concern if they are particularly persistent or severe. There are less common and more serious side effects associated with erythromycin gel such as rash, hives, difficulty breathing, bloody stools and swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue.


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