Doxycycline: Side Effects & Uses

Instructor: Alexandra Unfried

Alexandra earned her master's degree in nursing education and is currently a hospital supervisor/administrator.

Doxycycline is an antibiotic that can treat a variety of different bacteria that cause infections. This lesson will discuss the uses and side effects of doxycycline.

Karen is a forty-year-old woman with a history of pneumonia and bronchitis. After she came back from a family vacation she has not been feeling well. She reports symptoms including congestion in the chest, coughing, sore throat, and weakness to her doctor. The doctor suspects a respiratory infection, does a throat swab and prescribes doxycycline. They discuss why the medication is prescribed.

Uses for Doxycycline

Doxycycline is classified as a tetracycline antibiotic. Tetracycline antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections. The medication blocks bacterial protein from forming, which stops the growth, in order to treat the infection. Doxycycline is used to treat respiratory infections, sexually transmitted diseases, skin infections such as acne and abscesses from rosacea, urinary tract infections, gastrointestinal infections, gum disease, and eye infections. The antibiotic is able to treat so many different kinds of bacteria because it is a broad spectrum antibiotic. Broad-spectrum antibiotics are medications that can treat several different families of bacteria. Doxycycline is also used to prevent malaria, treat anthrax, and treat infections caused by ticks, lice, or mice. As with any antibiotic, they are used to treat bacterial infections, not infections caused by a virus, and the entire dose and amount of the medication should be taken to be effective.

Antibiotic capsule

In Karen's case, doxycycline is a good choice because the doctor has not seen any results from the throat swab. However, he knows that there is a good chance that the antibiotic will start working to fight the infection even if they don't know what bacteria caused it.

Precautions When Taking Doxycycline

Doxycycline is not recommended for children under the age of eight (unless the condition is life threatening) and can harm an unborn child during pregnancy. Breastfeeding mothers should not use doxycycline. You should not take doxycycline if you have an allergy to any other tetracycline antibiotic. The doctor needs to know if you have any liver disease, kidney disease, asthma, increased pressure in your head, or if you are taking certain medications such as isotretinoin (acne medication), seizure medications, or blood thinners. These conditions may cause increased risk of adverse or side effects. Doxycycline can also cause sun sensitivity so you should avoid the sun or use protective clothing and sunscreen when in the sun.

Side Effects of Doxycycline

After taking her second dose of doxycycline, Karen calls her doctor to tell him that she is having mild diarrhea and an intermittent upset stomach. Karen's doctor reassures her that these are common and to continue taking the full dose of medication unless symptoms get worse. He then reviews the common and serious side effects that may occur when taking doxycycline.

Common Side Effects

  • Nausea, vomiting, upset stomach
  • Mild diarrhea
  • Itching, rash, or hives
  • Vaginal itching or discharge
  • Sun sensitivity
  • Loss of appetite

Serious Side Effects

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