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Acne and Ulcerative Colitis


My 18 year old son was diagnosed with UC this year having had had sudden onset colitis after a holiday with his friends. I am interested to know if Ulcerative Colitis is related to allergies and systemic inflammation. He has always suffered from hay fever since he was a young child. I am considering his trying homeopathy for his hay fever and acne.

Acne and Colitis

Hello, my wonderful 18 year old son was diagnosed with UC in March. He had been taking Tetralysal (Lymecycline) antibiotics for acne for a few years before that. That had kept his skin pretty clear however I do question if that caused his UC. If not, could his acne and ulcerative colitis be related? . He also has had hay fever since he was a young boy. I can’t help wondering if there is a link between acne, hay fever and ulcerative colitis as to me it seems to be some sort of systemic inflammation in his body. Since, he was diagnosed with UC, he hasn’t taken oral antibiotics and as a result of the steroids which he has now tapered down from, his skin is worse than ever. Before he was diagnosed with UC, we had been considering his taking Roaccutane as a few of his doctors suggested it to clear up his skin for once and for all. One of his friends took it and now hasn’t had a problem with bad skin ever since. We didn’t want our son to take it as we had read about all the cons of Roaccutane. However, having acne can be very debilitating for young people and one has to weigh that up as well.

In my experience so far, gastroenterologists don’t see a connection between allergies and UC. Our one doesn’t seem to think the food you eat makes a lot of difference and he feels probiotics don’t make a difference. It isn’t easy to get an 18 year old to take probiotics or to stop eating certain foods especially when the gastroenterologist waves it out of hand. We have found that our gastroenterologist focuses on the colon but not on our son’s health as a whole.

Does anybody else have experience with acne and UC?

Although he is a very active and sociable young man (has just started at university) I think having acne must be bad for his self esteem. Does anybody have experience of taking antibiotics orally for acne when having been diagnosed with UC?

written by Susannah (mother of a colitis patient)

submitted in the parents and friends venting area

Some Related Studies:

Isotretinoin Use and the Risk of Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Potential association between the oral tetracycline class of antimicrobials used to treat acne and inflammatory bowel disease.

Previous Related Acne and UC stories:

Accutane and Ulcerative Colitis Study Links and Associations


27 thoughts on “Acne and Ulcerative Colitis”

  1. Hi Susannah,

    I think like every other person who uses and reads this site, I’m very sorry for you as a parent to see your son feeling the way he is. But you all need to keep your spirits up, it’s not going to go on forever like this, too many people here have climbed out in many different ways from similar rough times, and that will be you guys before you know it.

    I did some research on pubmed, and added two links to different studies on related topics. The first one which is right below the end of your story is a full-text story that you might want to read, and the second one, I believe is even related to the specific class of drugs you referenced. You may be able to contact the authors directly, one of them has an email of:

    and request the full story in PDF format, and I’d be shocked if he/she didn’t have it to you by the end of the day.

    I wish you all the very best moving forward, and although I disagree completely with your doctor that diet makes little difference in UC, I’m not at all surprised that he/she feels that way. That has been the common answer from GI doctors for a very long time and is only recently starting to change with all the current research that’s being conducted with regards to the microbiota and gut bacteria we all have.


  2. Hi! So sorry to hear your son is struggling with acne in addition to Uc. After the birth of my second daughter, I developed severe acne. After trying a few months of tetracycline to no avail, I started a five month course of accutane (generic sotret). During my last month on sotret, I developed my very first symptoms of UC. I have a strong family history of Crohn’s disease in my family, but at that point, there was no warning about family history and accutane use. The accutane definitely cleared up my acne, and it has been 5 years of basically acne-free existence. But I wonder if I traded acne for UC…. I’ll never know. Given my family history, I may have been destined to develop UC anyways, so it’s easier for me to just believe that rather than think I brought this upon myself by taking accutane, That being said, if I could go back in time and never have taken accutane, I definitely would have tried other options rather than face a life with UC. I know how miserable your son must be, but given that he already has UC, I question whether they could even prescribe it as there is now a black box warning about the link between accutane and IBD (and additional research on antibiotics/accutane/IBD connection). I would push for answers from your son’s dermatologist and GI… The last thing your son needs is to make his UC worse by taking accutane. I know my GI strongly advises against antibiotics except for extreme situations as they throw me into flareups very quickly, so again, i would really push for answers from both doctors. Good luck…keep us updated!

  3. I actually developped UC while taking Accutane…stats that I found said if taken, patients were 4x more likely to develop UC. Also,I took tetracycline often as a teen and believe there is a connection. I wonder if all these drugs weaken the immune system or change the immune system in some way that causes it to attack itself. I know that if I take antibiotics when I had UC, I’d flare up. Probiotics are a good idea for those with UC, especially if they need to take an antibiotic. I wonder if there’s anyone out there that had acne and never took anything for it through the years and still developped Crohn’s or colitis…or if it has more to do with the drugs that were taken vs the acne itself.

    1. hello to everyone. i was diagnosed with uc about 8 years ago. i also had acne as a teenager. my family doctor offered to prescribe acne medication back then, but luckily my mom wouldn’t have it! she was convinced it would wreak havoc on my liver. considering i got u.c. without ever having taken medication, i can barely imagine how bad it would be if i had. in fact, i am happy to say i haven’t had any issues in a while, though i am careful. the reason i am here is because when i did develop uc (around age 30) i also began developping acne, but strangely focused just in my neck, nowhere else. it was unlike (and still is) unlike any typical type of acne i’d ever had in my teens. i do believe there is a direct link between my skin and the health of my colon. my g.i. is convinced there is no link, but though he means well and he really is a good reputable g.i., the truth is they don’t know a whole lot more about the causes of u.c. than the victims do. here are some key things i have noticed will either help or aggravate my u.c. (and in turn my acne):
      1 – eat! regularly! i first developped problems when my relatively high stress job forced me to work long hours, often without eating for 6-8 hour stretches, sometimes more. that feeling of stomach pains due to hunger is the first sign my intestine is not happy. i have learned that even eating junk food when nothing else is available is way better than not have anything. ideally, keep healthy snacks on hand and eat regularly. this is the most important detail for me.
      2 – sleep! when i go through several day stretches with little sleep, my intestines let me know through irregular b.m. and through my skin.
      3 – i hate to say it, because i’m a natural kind of guy, but echinacea almost definitely makes my u.c. worse. i used to use it a lot to treat cold and flu symptoms. now i don’t because i immediately notice problems with u.c. i can only assess that it reinforces the immune system, which in turn decides to take out its frustrations on my intestines!
      the last time i had a bout with u.c. was following an 11 hour bus ride during which i did not eat and had barely slept the night before. it took a week or two to get back to normal.
      no one really knows the causes of u.c., and it might be somewhat subjective to individuals, but these are the main issues as far as i am concerned. i hope this can help.

    2. Hi Jeanine I have a daughter whom has just been diagnosed with UC still early days for us , she’s just 16 an beautiful , she’d had acne on an off for a few years seemed to have gone worse when she first got diagnosed a few months ago . But to answer your question she didn’t take nothing for her skin I never mentioned it it her , her dad suffered with it (acne) when he was a lad an I remembered how bad it made him feel . Any way Jeanine have a good 2014 it’s the first at January an I want to put last year behind me jx a mum

  4. Susannah

    My husband and his brother took antibiotics in their teen years for bad acne. My husband is also a cancer survivor. Both had UC symptoms after they stopped smoking. My husband smokes 5 a day and brother in law eliminated gluten and milk and that is how they control their symptoms. I believe UC is an immune/inflammation issue for sure!!!! Maybe the antibiotics killed off their good gut bugs… VSL capsules(probiotic) work very well for my husband- it helped turn him around with his last flair up. U can get them at Costco(best pricing)

    1. Graham from England

      Fascinating, I also took a simular medicine for my acne as a teenager and the UC revealed its self after stopping smoking.

      The 4 – 5 cigarettes per day had kept me well for 10 years but I recently discovered an amazing natural remedy and ive been well without cigs for a whole year!

      Please read my post on Olive oil, you have absolutley nothing to lose….

      1. Keep telling everyone about the V O O (virgin olive oil), Graham. I have to continue to relay the probiotic message over and over…and I am glad to do it!!

        If I could only get everyone to try probiotics! I will die trying, that’s for sure. I feel normal again…and without ANY MORE MEDS!!!!!!!!!!

        Just for teh record, I was a smoker for about twenty years, and I never had UC until I stopped either…plus the antiobiotics and the accutane….blah blah blah. The accutane sealed my deal. I was diagnosed with UC right after taking it!

        Crappy meds. All they do is harm.

  5. I took accutane for acne four times in the 90s and was diagnosed with UC shortly thereafter…so, yes, accutane CAN cause or instigate UC. I also had severe mold allergies as a child and was given allergy shots. Also bad tonsils as a very young child, and took alot of antibiotics.

    (A side note…accutane was actually created to treat colon cancer, in that it kills cancer cells in the colon…dries the colon right up, and in so doing was also discovered to dry every other orifice in the body out as well. Thus, also used as an acne teatment. Weird, huh?)

    I figure I didn’t have a chance! Accutane, allergy shots, and alot of antibiotics when I was young. I was bound to get this dreaded disease!

    Anyway…the doctor is wrong…PROBIOTICS have saved me and allowed me to attain complete remission!! Probiotics have done the same for alot of other UC sufferers as well. Talk your son into it. Make him read the posts from those of us whom they’ve worked and continue to work for! I am completely medication free and only taking probiotics and glutamine powder. That’s it! My doctor is amazed. Can’t believe it…but it’s true. Doctors are beginning to wake up to this repopulating of the good bacteria in our colons that somewhere along the line, we lost(like in all the ways above…accutane, antibiotics, allergy shots). This is the way back….believe me.

    I cannot shout this loud enough!!

    1. Graham from England

      Hi Bev,
      Im impressed with your knowledge on this subject, it all makes huge sense and I’m glad you will keep on about it…Those who are suffering are lucky to have the internet where people like you and Adam are so keen to help others. Imagine how we would feel now just being at the mercy of well meaning doctors who only consider inflicting nasty drugs on us? Doing so just to get us out through the revolving door until our misery becomes so unbearable that we inevitably return once more.

      I fear more natural/logical remedies will not be researched fairly and extensively though, how much will a big drug firm make from Olive Oil, zilch? Probiotics, not so much as they are already patented etc? Someone has to pay for this research, but who would when the product most likely to help is already on the shelf? The olive oil thing was discovered by accident and conclusions made in early 2010 but what has been done with this infomation, very little it seems?

      Lets keep an open mind and not blindly follow doctors and consultants as the only help on available, dont just take my word for it, there is enough proof on this site.

      1. First Graham, let me just say that I think YOU are fab! I’m so glad you said ‘well meaning’ doctors, because I came off sounding so angry and almost hateful towards them. I realize that they are there for us, and are only doing what they are supposed to do…namely, their jobs, which, are really to help us.

        Scientific researching of things like olive oil, probiotics, and the myriad of other naturals is indeed a far away dream. I agree that the research on these things is sorely lacking due to funding, etc. It’s really sad, yet, it does get us off our ‘duffs’ so that we might take more of a hand in what we do for ourselves.

        I appreciate the information about olive oil from you. We need to know these things (and keep them in the forefront because they do tend to go by the wayside), and the only way we find out about them is through doing the research ourselves!

        Thank you Graham. I’m so glad you’re here!


  6. Many thanks for all of your encouraging responses. I shall certainly look further in to probiotics i.e. which are the best to buy and probiotics drinks as well. It seems so extraordinary to me that so many UC sufferers feel that diet and probiotic supplements are very important yet gastroenterologists won’t take note of that. One would think that they would be interested in helping their patients find a cure for this illness. Has anybody used homeopathy to bring down systemic inflammation and had good results? This website will become a new part of my life! I am very grateful to you all.

    1. Susannah…

      Exactly! Perhaps if the gastro had the disease him or herself, they might be more open minded?

      You would think that they would understand what we are going through (they hear us in their offices enough…lol), but they are trained to try one drug after another until one ‘sticks’. Never mind the side effects…You would think that seeing the failure rate of these drugs might just tell them something?


  7. Hello everyone! After reading Susannahs story and these comments I felt obliged to reply as a fellow UC sufferer! I’m 19 years old and got diagnosed with UC when I was 11. Susannah I completely agree with the fact that acne will affect your sons self esteem as I ended up getting cystic acne on my back and sometimes on my face which left marks and left me super paranoid when I went out! With females we have the favour of make up but it doesn’t seem to brush off the paranoia an self conciousness!
    Regarding the link between acne and UC, in my experience my acne came AFTER diagnosis and medication, my reasoning due to weakening of the immune system and my body not being able to fight off infections that well. I’ve been on tetracycline and it helped improve my acne without triggering a relapse on my UC thankfully. In that aspect I don’t think the antibiotics affected me that much regarding my symptoms.
    Susannah I agree with the other comments here that diet and probiotics makes a HUGE difference! UC is more aggressive in younger patients so I can imagine the pain your son is encountering unfortunately and I would definitely recommend laying off wheat, dairy and spicy food and fizzy drinks! As a teenager it’s so hard for us to stay away from junk food and find healthy alternatives but I guess over time we tend to understand the importance of eating right. My mother purchased probiotic tablets and they were amazing! They helped with bloating and the sensitivity of my bowels and that’s something I’d also recommend.
    I hope my comment has some positive input somehow and I hope you and your son are okay!

  8. Hi,
    I was diagnosed with UC when I was 19 & I am now 21. I have had it since I was 16 but didn’t know it at the time. My colitis is called A typical bc I have inflamation in three places in my colon so it was very painful until I got on some medication. Since I was put on my meds my acne as kicked into overdrive. Nothing over the counter has helped and I break out every single day. I would recommend you take your son to a good derm in your area. They know about UC and are willing to work with their patients. I am currently on Retin A and looking for a natural oral acne solution. My derm said Clearzine pills (can be found on Amazon) are safe to take. I showed her the ingredients and she gave me the ok to take them. Also diet plays a great role in UC. I have had to cut out so many foods in my diet, especially a lot of dairy. My doc also told me that with UC I should avoid spicy food, chips, peanuts, sugary foods…anything that is not soft or easy on my stomach. Another reason for your son’s acne could also be his meds for UC. I learned from my derm that my meds are throwing off my hormones which is causing me to break out. So I am searching for a natural remedy to set my hormones back in balance. I really encourage you to try out the Clearzine along with a topical retinoid. Retin A has been working great for me so far. If you do decide to go to a derm don’t let your son use Clindamycin. It is not safe to use with UC and says it directly on thd paper that comes with the medicine. Hope this helps and good luck!


  9. Please tell me more about Olive oil. Apply to face or use as an oil pull( similar to coconut oil?)
    Our daughter is convinced now of the importance of diet . She has reinvested herself in no gluten but is having trouble believing she might have to give up lactose as well. Her break outs are debilitating ; her current flare has lasted three weeks. Her dr. prescribed prednisone of course which we know is lousy on the face. She is in a catch 22: her self consciousness about her face reinforces UC’s aggression. Is there anything anyone can offer to tip the balance ?
    Thanks. This site is extremely reassuring. I am glad i found it out of complete desperation over the medical field who honestly want to “cure the problem” but at
    what expense. Our dr wants our daughter to take IMURAN now. Look that one up!

  10. I have been diagnosed with UC for 11 years. A few years before my diagnosis I began getting very painful cystic acne on my forehead and neck – also behind my ears! I have noticed there is a definite link with certain symptoms of UC – especially after a flare up – or just after – also I definitely believe there is a link with certain food additives. None of the many doctors I have seen believes there is a link – however I have seen a link with my diet (especially with processed food with additives) and the painful cysts.

  11. My son was diagnosed with UC last year when he was 19. He too is going through terrible acne on his face and back and making it hard to enjoy his life it is very painful to watch.

  12. I wrote the original post a few years ago and I just want to let you know that my son now has completely clear skin having had severe acne. It was so bad that he decided to take accutane. We did a lot of research on it at the time and found out very specific stats. Our gastroenterologist liaised with the dermatologist and us on this big decision. That was three years ago and he has never looked back since. Nor has he had a flare up of UC though he still continues to take Asacol daily. He is about to embark on a career as a lawyer and clearing up his skin has helped him hugely. He feels Accurane was a magic bullet for him having tried everything else. All the best

  13. Graham from England

    Great news Susannah and I’m glad you reported back.

    The acne thing is still a nuisance for me and I just wanted to add a few words for this subject. Taking EVOO improved my acne dramatically but I recently had to start b12 due to parasites. My acne is quite poor again as a result of the b12 but could easily have been around all these years due to the worms. I still have the parasites, apparently dead ones can cause a higher immune response as they then become more visible to our immune system.

    The acne is often symmetric which suggests its a system problem, immune perhaps more than a problem at the actual skin site. I did find a few sites where people were having success using EVOO as an antibacterial directly on the skin. I think internally works better though none had thought to try it. As most of us now know, dealing with a long term acne problem at the skin site doesn’t always work.

  14. Going through the same devastation. 19 year old son, terrible teenage acne, followed by taking Lymecycline, followed by UC. Off the meds and the acne is worse than ever. Hapless GPs, they seem clueless. UC surgeon is thankfully a bit more switched on.

    1. Graham from England

      Have you tried a more Mediterranean diet and EVOO external/internal for acne? It will heal skin wounds quicker as long as its well tolerated. It’s anti bacterial etc.

      A good strong early harvest oil is best, if you are in the UK I can recommend one.

  15. Hello, I would love to inbox you if there is a way of doing so. My son is now 22, clear skinned and very well. If I can help support you through this difficult time, I would be happy to. At the time of my son’s diagnosis I was devastated for him. Did you say your son is off meds now? That sounds promising.

    1. I would love to her how your son got his acne under control. My son will be 21 next month and has his acne somewhat under control. He has had 2 flare up and is not on the strong meds just the mesaslamine,.

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