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What Is Sulfacetamide Wash?

By Jacquelyn Gilchrist
Updated May 17, 2024
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Sulfacetamide wash is a sulfonamide antibiotic solution that may be prescribed for some skin conditions, including dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis, rosacea, acne and bacterial infection. Depending on the brand, this topical medication typically contains 10 percent sodium sulfacetamide and five percent sulfur. Sulfacetamide wash also contains a drying agent which encourages the top layer of skin to shed skin cells at an accelerated rate, thus exposing the new skin underneath. Patients should follow the dosage instructions carefully, because it is possible to overdose on a sulfacetamide wash. Signs of a possible overdose can include nausea and vomiting. In rare cases, a significant overdose may cause renal failure, which requires emergency medical care.

Before applying the sulfacetamide wash, patients should cleanse the skin of all dirt, makeup, and moisturizers. Patients may then apply the recommended amount of the solution to the slightly damp skin or scalp — depending on the affected area — work it vigorously into a lather, and rinse well. It is essential that the patient avoid getting the solution into his eyes or other mucus membranes.

Sulfacetamide wash is typically prescribed for eight to 10 days. If the skin condition worsens with treatment, patients should discontinue using the solution and consult their doctors. They should also stop using the wash prematurely if they develop a rash or other skin irritation, fever, or mouth sores.

Some minor side effects may occur while undergoing this skin treatment, such as minor stinging or burning of the skin. More serious side effects, such as diarrhea, stomach cramps, swollen or blistering skin, and joint pain, require immediate medical attention. Those who suffer an allergic reaction to the product may experience tightness in the chest, problems breathing, and hives.

Before using sulfacetamide wash to treat a skin condition, patients should disclose their other medical conditions, medications, and supplements. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid using sulfacetamide wash whenever possible. It may be contraindicated for use by those who have lupus, certain allergies, or kidney disease. Methenamine and products that contain silver may interact with this solution. Patients should be aware that in rare cases, sulfacetamide wash may cause Stevens-Johnson syndrome.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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