Medicines used to treat infections that are caused by bacteria are called antibiotics. These medicines have the capability of killing bacteria or even stopping the bacteria from multiplying. These two actions are referred to as bactericidal or bacteriostatic. There are several common antibiotics used to treat various infections. Unfortunately, antibiotics have no effect on viral infections, such as the common cold or flu. In recent years there has been some controversy regarding the over-prescribing of antibiotics. Talk with your physician to determine the best treatment plan for your illness.
Doctors commonly prescribe antibiotics to treat infections that are caused by bacteria. Depending on the type of symptoms the patient is experiencing, the doctor will determine the best antibiotic to use for those specific symptoms. Often, antibiotics cannot be prescribed because the patient is suffering from a viral infection rather than a bacterial infection. However, when the body has been attacked by bacteria, it is often appropriate to prescribe an antibiotic to assist the body in fighting the infection.
Antibiotics fall into the following categories: penicillins, macrolides, cephalosporins and fluoroquinolones. Antibiotics are further classified by whether or not they are narrow spectrum or broad spectrum.
Narrow and Broad Spectrum
Narrow-spectrum antibiotics are classified in that way because, typically, they only treat a few different types of bacteria. Broad-spectrum antibiotics have a larger application and treat many more different types of bacteria.
With the use of broad-spectrum antibiotics, however, there is a risk of creating an antibiotic resistance within the body. They are usually prescribed when a narrow-spectrum antibiotic is not working well enough on resistant bacteria.
Penicillin is considered a narrow-spectrum antibiotic and is routinely prescribed for any number of bacterial infections. Penicillin works by preventing bacteria from growing in cell walls. One of the most commonly prescribed antibiotics for this type of infection is Amoxicillin.
Cephalosporins are similar to penicillin but present a smaller chance of allergic reaction. Like penicillin, cephalosporins help to destroy bacteria by limiting bacterial growth in cell walls.
Ceftin and Keflex are antibiotics that are used to treat sinus infections. These are typically stronger antibiotics that work well on resistant infections.
Macrolides are considered narrow-spectrum antibiotics. They work by hindering the ability of bacteria to create new proteins. Although they do not directly destroy bacteria, they prevent it from increasing. This action allows the distressed body to create more white blood cells and antibodies needed to fight the bacteria.
When compared to penicillins and cephalosporins, macrolides appear to not have as may negative side effects.
Popular choices in this class of antibiotics are erythromycin and clarithromycin. Brand names associated with these are Biaxin and Klacid MR.
Fluoroquinolones are considered antibiotics that are broad spectrum. These are the newest type of antibiotic. These antibiotics interfere with the mutating process of DNA with bacteria, and help to kill bacteria. Levaquin, Avelox and Cipro are this type of antibiotic. While fluoroquinolones are quite effective, they may cause serious side effects.
As with any medication, discuss with your physician your best treatment option. Many times you will not need an antibiotic at all.