What is Tetracycline?

wiseGEEK Writer

Tetracycline is an antibiotic used to treat a variety of bacterial infections. It is most commonly used to treat pneumonia, typhus, cholera, strep throat, and persistent acne. It is related to other antibiotics like doxycycline and minocycline. If one has an adverse or allergic reaction to any of the drugs in this family, this may mean allergies to all of the drugs of this type. One should notify one’s physician of any past allergic reactions to any of these medications.

Tetracycline may be prescribed to treat strep throat.
Tetracycline may be prescribed to treat strep throat.

Tetracycline is often taken in pill or capsule form, or it can be administered intravenously for severe infections. It rarely comes in a liquid form. This is because most liquid forms of antibiotics are used with children, and children under the age of eight should not use tetracycline unless absolutely necessary. When used by children, this antibiotic can cause permanent staining of the teeth and may also interfere with normal bone growth.

Tetracycline may be prescribed to treat acne.
Tetracycline may be prescribed to treat acne.

As well, pregnant and nursing women should not use this medication. It has known mutagenic qualities, which can cause damage to the unborn child. It does pass into breast milk and may cause bone growth problems or teeth staining in nursing children.

Tetracycline may be prescribed to treat pneumonia.
Tetracycline may be prescribed to treat pneumonia.

Tetracycline can have specific interactions with other medications. Calcium and magnesium can interfere with absorption of the drug, so it is recommended that those taking calcium based drugs for heart conditions avoid tetracycline. Also antacids, which frequently contain calcium and/or magnesium, can interfere with absorption.

Tetracycline should not be given to children under the age of eight.
Tetracycline should not be given to children under the age of eight.

Tetracycline may also decrease the effectiveness of birth control pills. If you are on the medication and want to prevent pregnancy, it is recommended you use a barrier method for additional protection. Iron, as well, seems to inhibit the drug, and the medication can also dramatically change the values of the medication of Coumadin, so levels should be carefully monitored.

Pregnant women should not take tetracycline.
Pregnant women should not take tetracycline.

Like many other medications, this antibiotic may cause sun sensitivity, which is considered a minor side effect. If you are taking this drug for long-term use, as many with acne do, you should carefully test the degree to which your skin may exhibit sun sensitivity to avoid sunburn and skin damage. Long-term use for acne was once frequent, but recent studies suggest that such use may cause antibiotic resistant bacteria to form on the skin. This may result in more persistent acne, and may also make infection more likely after surgery.

Tetracycline may decrease the effectiveness of birth control pills.
Tetracycline may decrease the effectiveness of birth control pills.

Some common side effects of tetracycline are upset stomach, and slight changes in skin color. If these symptoms do not dissipate after a few days, you should alert your doctor. As well, tetracycline, like many antibiotics, makes one more prone to yeast infections in women, and jock itch in men. Eating yogurt daily can help reduce but cannot always prevent yeast infections.

Side effects of tetracycline may include upset stomach.
Side effects of tetracycline may include upset stomach.

Serious side effects that should immediately be brought to the attention of a doctor are skin rash or hives, vomiting, yellowing of the eyes, difficulty breathing, throat sores, or significant joint pain. These symptoms can indicate allergy to the medication, and may require both switching the medication, and treatment to reverse the affects of a severe allergic reaction.

Eating yogurt daily can help reduce the risk of yeast infections.
Eating yogurt daily can help reduce the risk of yeast infections.
Tetracycline can cause a heightened sun sensitivity in patients taking it.
Tetracycline can cause a heightened sun sensitivity in patients taking it.
If a patient experiences hives as a result of taking tetracycline, a doctor should be notified.
If a patient experiences hives as a result of taking tetracycline, a doctor should be notified.
Cholera, an infection of the small intestine, may be treated with tetracycline.
Cholera, an infection of the small intestine, may be treated with tetracycline.
Many different bacterial infections are treated with tetracycline.
Many different bacterial infections are treated with tetracycline.

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Discussion Comments

anon262989

Yes, tetracycline is also given to treat STDs. It is commonly used to treat chlamydia.

anon42284

Why would the doctor give this medication after an abortion?

nicole1

Do tetracycline work for STD'S?

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