How It Works: Silver Sulfadiazine is an antibiotic. Antibiotics can improve acne symptoms by limiting the growth of bacteria that contribute to Acne Vulgaris.
When is this medication used? Silver Sulfadiazine is a topical antibiotic from the Sulfa Family. Silver Sulfadiazine is a medication that is used to treat a range of bacterial skin infections. Although, silver sulfadiazine is rarely used as a treatment for acne, there is some anecdotal evidence that this medication can be an effective treatment for acne symptoms. Silver sulfadiazine can be used as a treatment for all types of acne vulgaris (Acne Types: 1-4), although it is likely to be most effective for the treatment of mild to moderate acne (Acne Types: 1-2). For the treatment of moderate to severe acne (Acne Types: 3-4), topical Silver Sulfadiazine will likely need to be used in combination with a complementary treatment (eg. oral antibiotic, oral retinoid, androgen inhibitor or light/laser therapy).
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Silver Sulfadiazine Background
Silver Sulfadiazine (Silvadene) Molecule
Silver sulfadiazine is a topical antibiotic cream that is commonly used to prevent secondary skin infections in burn patients. Silver sulfadiazine is an antibiotic salt that inhibits the growth of bacteria in two different ways. First, sulfadiazine is a sulfa family antibiotic. This family of antibiotics kills bacteria by preventing them from synthesizing folic acid, which is an essential B-vitamin. Second, silver sulfadiazine releases silver ions into the tissue where it is applied. Silver itself is toxic to most types of bacteria. The combined action of these two mechanisms contribute to the overall antibacterial activity of silver sulfadiazine.
Silver sulfadiazine is rarely used in the treatment of acne, although there is no particular reason why that is the case. Because it is rarely used for the treatment of acne vulgaris, there is very little published research investigating the effectiveness of topical silver sulfadiazine for the treatment of acne symptoms. However, there are many anecdotal reports of good results with this medication.
Both silver ions and sulfa family antibiotics have good track records in acne treatment. Closely related sulfa family antibiotics (eg. sulfamethoxazole and sulfactemide) are frequently used to treat acne, with relatively positive track records. Therefore, there is no apparent reason why silver sulfadiazine should not be considered as a viable treatment alternative.
Pharmaceutical products that contain silver sulfadiazine are available both as prescriptions and over the counter (OTC) medications. When possible, prescription silver sulfadiazine should be obtained through consultation of a physician. Many physicians and dermatologists are familiar with this medication, although it is not widely used for the treatment of acne vulgaris. Both generic forms and brand name formulations of this medication are widely available. Generic silver sulfadiazine tends to be inexpensive and brand name formulations tend to be moderately expensive.
Silver Sulfadiazine Side Effects
The most common side effect of topical silver sulfadiazine treatment is mild skin irritation. Individuals with sensitivities to sulfa family antibiotics have an increased risk of adverse effects. Approximately 1% of patients report allergic reactions to silver sulfadiazine. The adverse effects are mild in most cases, but more serious complications are possible. Topically applied silver sulfadiazine is poorly absorbed into the blood stream and systemic reactions are rare.
Long term, heavy use of medications containing silver ions can lead to a condition called argyria. Argyria is characterized by an accumulation of silver molecules in the skin, which can lead to permanent skin discoloration. However, normal use of topical silver sulfadiazine rarely leads to this complication.
For more in-depth information about potential side effects of silver sulfadiazine use, refer to the physician’s insert for silver sulfadiazine, or consult a medical professional. For more information about contraindications in general, refer to Avoiding Negative Drug Interactions.