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Doxycycline Hyclate: What Is It? Uses, Side Effects, and Dosage

If you’re suffering from severe acne, looking to prevent malaria while traveling to a foreign country, or have recently been exposed to anthrax, you might be surprised to find that the same medication would be prescribed in all three of these very different situations. Doxycycline hyclate is an affordable, accessible, and effective antibiotic that has been used for years to treat and prevent a wide variety of conditions. Thanks to its wide variety of applications in fighting bacterial infections, doxycycline hyclate was prescribed 6,681,548 times in 2017 in the United States alone. With drug-resistant bacteria on the rise due to improper prescription and use of antibiotics over several decades, doctors still turn to doxycycline hyclate to treat bacterial infections, but they are likely to exercise more caution today when writing a prescription, therefore, it's not available over-the-counter. When taken correctly, doxycycline hyclate can be a safe, effective, and affordable way to treat bacterial infections with relatively few side effects that is FDA-approved. 

What Is Doxycycline Hyclate?

Doxycycline hyclate is a broad-spectrum antibiotic used to treat a wide variety of bacterial infections. The medication belongs to the family of tetracycline antibiotics, and like other antibiotics, it works by stopping the growth of bacteria in the body. Doxycycline hyclate is the generic form of the drug, which is sold under numerous brand names, including Acticlate, Monodox, Vibra-Tabs, and Vibramycin. Because antibiotics are specifically designed to treat bacterial infections, doxycycline hyclate is not effective when used against viral infections such as the common cold, flu, or coronavirus. 

What Is Doxycycline Hyclate Used to Treat?

There are many treatment applications for doxycycline hyclate, as the medication is used to treat a variety of conditions resulting from bacterial infections. Doxycycline hyclate is used as an antibacterial to treat acne, urinary tract infections, urethritis, q fever, typhus, intestinal infections, respiratory tract infections, eye infections, gonorrhea, chlamydia trachomatis, syphilis, clostridium, Lyme disease, periodontitis (gum disease), and others. The medication can also be used to treat blemishes, bumps, and acne-like lesions caused by rosacea, although it cannot treat the redness caused by rosacea. In addition to treating existing bacterial infections, doxycycline hyclate is also taken to prevent malaria, treat anthrax exposure, and treat other severe infections caused by mites, ticks, or lice.

What Causes Bacterial Infections?

Our bodies naturally contain trillions of bacteria that comprise our microbiome. The bacteria in our microbiome can be good, bad, or neutral depending on the size of their population within our bodies and their location.  The good bacteria are called probiotics, and they help our bodies fight disease and carry out important functions, like digesting food. There are also bacteria that cause disease, and these bacteria are called pathobiotics. Eubiotics are species of bacteria that can be harmful or helpful depending on the size of the colony and their location. Bacterial infections occur when there is an imbalance of probiotic and pathobiotic bacteria. Under normal circumstances, our probiotic bacteria are able to keep the pathobiotic bacteria in check. When our microbiome gets out of balance, our immune systems can weaken and infection can occur. Antibiotics are commonly used to treat bacterial infections because they work by killing the pathobiotic bacteria that are causing the infection.

What Is the Cost of Doxycycline Hyclate?

Doxycycline hyclate is available in both capsule and tablet forms in a variety of different strengths. The release capsule is available in 50 mg and 100 mg strengths. Thirty doxycycline hyclate capsules cost as little as $12.76 for 100 mg capsules and $17.10 for 50 mg capsules. The tablet form of the drug comes in a broader variety of strengths, including 20 mg, 50 mg, 75 mg, 100 mg, and 150 mg doses. Thirty tablets at the 20 mg strength costs approximately $11.74, while 50 mg tablets cost $20.71, 75 mg tablets cost $48.36, 100 mg tablets cost $12.63, and 150 mg tablets cost $140.21. The more commonly prescribed the strength, the less expensive the cost of the medication. The brand name versions of doxycycline hydrate are available in a variety of forms and strengths, but some of the brand name drugs only come in a capsule or only come in a tablet, and strength options may be different. The costs of brand name medications are often substantially higher than those of the generic form of the medication, so unless you have a medical issue or health condition that requires you to take the brand name form of a drug, you’ll have the same results at a much lower price with the generic version.

What Are the Benefits of Using Doxycycline Hyclate?

There are many benefits of using doxycycline hyclate, many of which result from the medication’s ability to treat many conditions. Doxycycline hyclate is well-known by both medical professionals and patients because it has been in use for decades, so it is prescribed often and people are comfortable using it. The medication is used to treat many different conditions in a wide variety of forms and strengths, which has resulted in the drug being inexpensive. Many manufacturers produce both generic and brand-name forms of the drug, so you are likely to have one of the forms of the medication covered by your insurance company. If you do not have health insurance, doxycycline hyclate is eligible for discounts under any pharmacy discount card program and is also affordable on a cash basis for most people. 
 
In addition to the benefits that come with using a drug that has been popular for many years, doxycycline hyclate also offers specific benefits when compared to other tetracycline-class antibiotics. Doxycycline hyclate is known to cause fewer side effects, such as an upset stomach,  than other tetracycline antibiotics, and it also does not have to be taken as often to be effective.

How Do I Know what Dose of Doxycycline Hyclate to Take?

Doxycycline hyclate can only be taken when prescribed by a doctor, so make sure to get medical advice from your doctor about the dose of your medication and how often it should be taken. Depending on the condition being treated the severity of the infection, doxycycline hyclate may be prescribed several times per day or once per day. A typical dose of doxycycline hyclate is 100 mg or 200 mg taken once or twice per day. It’s imperative that you follow your doctor’s orders directly and do not take the medication for more or less time than prescribed, even if your symptoms have improved. Skipping doses or extending the length of your prescription can increase your risk of further infection by unnecessarily exposing your body to antibiotics, allowing them to become drug-resistant. Follow your doctor’s orders exactly, read the drug information thoroughly, and store it at room temperature.
Regardless of whether you take the release tablet or capsule form of doxycycline hyclate, a single dose should be taken with a full glass of water each day. If you experience an upset stomach while taking doxycycline hyclate on your first day, check with your doctor to see if taking it with food can help. Doxycycline hyclate is sometimes rendered less effective if taken with food, milk, or any other substance that is high in calcium, so it is important to talk to your pharmacist or doctor before taking it with any of these items. The medication should also be taken two to three hours before taking any products containing any of the following:

  • Aluminum
  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Zinc
  • Bismuth subsalicylate

These substances are commonly found in antacids, didanosine solution, quinapril, vitamins and minerals, dairy products, and calcium-enriched juice. Each of the aforementioned substances can bind to doxycycline, preventing your body from fully absorbing the drug and limiting its effectiveness. 

Are There Any Side Effects I Should Be Aware of?

Although there are fewer side effects associated with doxycycline hyclate than with other tetracycline antibiotics, side effects may still occur. Common side effects associated with doxycycline hyclate include:

  • Nausea, vomiting, upset stomach, loss of appetite
  • Mild diarrhea
  • Skin rash or itching
  • Darkened skin color
  • Vaginal itching or discharge
  • Sun sensitivity (getting sunburn more easily in which case, be sure to wear extra sunscreen)
  • Photosensitivity 
  • Esophagitis (inflammation of the esophagus)

Rarely, some people may experience adverse effects from doxycycline hyclate that can affect many different parts of the body. In the event of a serious drug reaction, you should seek treatment from a medical professional. Symptoms of an allergic reaction may include:

  • Skin reactions such as rashes
  • Fever
  • Swollen glands
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Muscle aches
  • Severe weakness
  • Unusual bruising
  • Yellowing of the skin or eyes

Experiencing any of the following is a sign of a medical emergency and treatment should be sought at once:

  • Severe stomach pain
  • Diarrhea that is watery or bloody
  • Throat irritation
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Chest pain
  • Irregular heart rhythm
  • Shortness of breath
  • Little or no urination
  • Low white blood cell counts, as indicated by fever, chills, swollen glands, body aches, weakness, pale skin, or easy bruising or bleeding
  • Severe headaches
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vision problems
  • Pain behind the eyes
  • Loss of appetite
  • Upper stomach pain that may spread to your back
  • Tiredness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dark urine

Are There Any Risks Associated with Doxycycline Hyclate?

Due to the tendency of doxycycline hyclate to cause esophagitis, you should tell your doctor if you have a history of experiencing trouble swallowing or other esophagus problems, such as hiatal hernia or heartburn. 
Doxycycline hyclate can cause live bacteria vaccines to not work as well, so you should not receive any immunizations or vaccinations while taking this medication.
If taken incorrectly, such as by ending a prescription treatment too early or skipping doses, the use of doxycycline hyclate can result in increasing the resistance of bacteria in your body to antibiotics. Therefore, it’s important that you follow your doctor’s prescription exactly. You should also ask your doctor about possible drug interaction with existing medications. 
Tooth discoloration is more likely to occur in young children, particularly those under eight years of age. However, tooth discoloration has been observed in older children and young adults.
Like other antibiotics, the use of doxycycline hyclate can make birth control pills less effective. The use of a non-hormonal birth control method, such as condoms or diaphragms with spermicide, should be used to prevent pregnancy while taking doxycycline hyclate.

Who Should not Take Doxycycline Hyclate?

People who are allergic to doxycycline hyclate or other tetracycline antibiotics, including demeclocycline, minocycline, tetracycline, or tigecycline, should not take doxycycline hyclate. People who have a history of any of the following should make to tell their doctors prior to taking doxycycline hyclate:

  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Asthma or sulfite allergy
  • Increased pressure inside your skull

Additionally, people who take isotretinoin, seizure medicine, or blood thinners should also inform their doctor of their medical history. Children, particularly those under eight years old, should not take doxycycline hyclate unless there is a life-threatening or severe condition requiring treatment due to the potential for the medication to cause permanent yellowing or graying of the teeth in children.

Is Doxycycline Hyclate Safe for Pregnant and Nursing Women?

Doxycycline hyclate is not considered safe for pregnant or nursing women, and pregnant women or women who are breast-feeding should not take the medication. Doxycycline hyclate is known to cause tooth and bone development issues for unborn babies. When taken in the last half of pregnancy, doxycycline hyclate can cause permanent tooth discoloration issues later in life. Women should not breastfeed while taking doxycycline hyclate, as the medication can pass through breast milk and may affect bone and tooth development in nursing infants.

How Do I Know if Doxycycline Hyclate is Right for Me?

If you are suffering from a bacterial infection, are over the age of twelve years old, and are not pregnant or nursing, doxycycline hyclate may be able to safely and effectively treat your condition. The medication is affordable and available in a variety of forms and strengths from a number of different manufacturers, so it is highly accessible. Because doxycycline hyclate is only effective against bacterial, rather than viral, infections, it is critical that you speak to your doctor to ensure that your condition is bacterial prior to starting the medication. Taking doxycycline hyclate incorrectly by skipping doses or not finished the prescribed course of treatment can have a lasting effect on your body’s response to antibiotics, so only take doxycycline hyclate if you are confident that you will follow the prescription instructions.

Published April 6th, 2020 by Bridget Reed
Fact Checked by Chris Riley

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