Tetracycline: Uses, How to Take, & Side Effects

Updated in February 2024

Tetracycline, also called tetracycline hydrochloride, is an antibacterial medicine indicated for the treatment of infections caused by bacteria like Chlamydia sp., Mycoplasma spp., Treponema sp., Vibrio sp., and Clostridium sp.. It can be prescribed for the treatment of sexually transmitted infections, UTIs and gastrointestinal infections.

Tetracycline can also be effective against some parasites, such as Plasmodium sp., as well as acne caused by bacteria. 

This medicine must be taken as prescribed by your doctor. It is available in capsule or ointment form, and obtained at the pharamacy with a prescription.

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Common uses

Tetracycline can be prescribed for cases of:

  • Acne
  • Actinomycosis
  • Genitourinary infection
  • Gingivostomatitis
  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Otitis media
  • Pharyngitis
  • Bacterial pneumonia
  • Bacterial sinusitis
  • Typhus
  • Gastrointestinal infections
  • Enterocolitis

Tetracycline is an antibacterial medication, that acts by inhibiting the growth of bacteria. It blocks the synthesis of proteins found in the bacteria, making it impossible to multiply and spread.

Tetracycline is a broad-spectrum antibiotic, meaning it can attack harmful bacteria, as well as good, healthy bacteria in the body. Therefore, this medication is not often used as a first line of treatment recommended by the doctor.

How to take

Tetracycline use should be guided by a doctor. Dosing depends on the infectious agent identified and the disease to be treated. In general, the doctor will prescribe one 500 mg capsule of tetracycline, taken every 6 or 12 hours, with a glass of water. It is essential that the treatment is not interrupted, as this ensures the full elimination of the bacteria.

In cases of acne treatment, the doctor may prescribe tetracycline ointment, which should be applied in a thin layer to the area where the acne is present.

Tetracycline should not be taken together with milk or dairy products, as these may reduce the effectiveness of the treatment. You should wait at least 1 to 2 hours before or after using tetracycline to consume dairy products.

Possible side effects

Some of the most common side effects that may occur during treatment with tetracycline are gastrointestinal effects such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, oral candidiasis, vulvovaginitis, anal itching, darkening or discoloration of the tongue, pseudomembranous colitis, skin photosensitivity, skin and mucosal pigmentation, and hypoplasia of the enamel of developing teeth.

Contraindications for use

Tetracycline is contraindicated in pregnancy, lactation and for patients with hypersensitivity to tetracyclines or the components of the formula.