What Can be Treated with Antibiotics?
Since their discovery in the early 20th century, antibiotics have saved countless lives. At the same time, they've also caused some unintended consequences due to misuse and overprescribing. Here's what you should know about antibiotic medications.
How Do They Work?
Antibiotics are specifically prescribed to fight bacterial infections. The medications work by killing bacteria or by preventing the organisms from multiplying. Antibiotics can be used to treat a wide array of conditions, ranging from acne to life-threatening staphylococcus infections. That said, antibiotics do come with some limitations and risks. For one, they have no effect on viral infections. Antibiotics can also cause serious side-effects in certain people and increase the risk of so-called bacterial super bugs.
Types of Antibiotics
There are several different kinds of antibiotics; however, the vast majority can be broadly classified into a half-dozen key groups:
- Cephalosporins such as cefixime and cefalexin
- Penicillins such as flucloxacillin and amoxicillin
- Tetracyclines such as tetracycline
- Aminoglycosides such as gentamicin
- Macrolides such as azithromycin and erythromycin
- Fluoroquinolones/quinolones such as norfloxacin and ciprofloxacin
Understanding the Limitations and Risks
While they are an essential tool for modern doctors, antibiotics have no effect on fungal infections or viral infections, such as the flu or common cold. When prescribed or used inappropriately, these medications can promote drug-resistance among bacteria, resulting in dangerous super bugs that are very difficult to treat. This is why modern doctors are careful not to give patients antibiotics unless they have clearly determined that an illness stems from a bacterial infection. It's also why they strongly advise patients to take all of their antibiotic medications, even when their symptoms begin to clear up.
Certain antibiotics can also cause allergic reactions in some people. For this reason, it's important to never take another person's antibiotic medications. You should also follow your doctor's recommendations whenever you receive a prescription for antibiotics.