A comprehensive look at metronidazole A comprehensive look at metronidazole

Metronidazole is a broad-spectrum antibiotic medication that can be used to treat a wide variety of infections. It works by stopping the growth of certain parasites and bacteria and is not effective against infections caused by other types of parasites or bacteria. Like all antibiotics, it is also not effective against viral infections, including colds, flu, or the coronavirus.

It’s only available on prescription and can come in various different forms like cream, gel, suppositories and tablets. Most people will receive a prescription for Metronidazole tablets.

Uses of Metronidazole

Broad-spectrum antibiotics are useful because they have several applications as a medical treatment. In addition to slowing down the growth of some parasites and bacteria, metronidazole can also prevent an infection from spreading further and be used to prevent postoperative infections. Some conditions that metronidazole can treat include:


Rosacea is a common skin condition that causes redness and blushing on the face. It can also cause visible, broken blood vessels. Other signs of rosacea are small, pus-filled bumps that are often mistaken for acne. Flare Ups of rosacea can vary in frequency and intensity, with some people going months or years without symptoms. Rosacea can affect anyone, but it’s most common in older white women. While there is no cure for rosacea, medications like metronidazole can help reduce the symptoms.

Dental abscesses

A dental or tooth abscess occurs when a buildup of pus forms inside the teeth or gums. An abscess is usually caused by a bacterial infection that has accumulated in the soft pulp of the tooth. The bacteria can come from a plaque build-up on your teeth, created by the bacteria in your mouth combined with food and saliva. Plaque sticks to the teeth, damaging them as well as the gums. It’s important to practise good oral hygiene by regularly flossing and brushing to remove any plaque. Regular dental cleanings will also help.

Bacterial vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis, or BV, is a vaginal inflammation caused by an overgrowth of bacteria in the vagina. Everyone has bacteria in their bodies and when it’s balanced it shouldn’t cause any issues. Bacteria is only a problem when there is an overgrowth of it or an unnatural balance. BV can affect women of any age but those in their reproductive years are most likely to get it. It’s not an STI, but can be triggered by sex. Other causes include the use of an IUD, a recent change in sexual partners, and using perfumed products in or around the vagina. Not everyone with BV will be symptomatic, but symptoms can include unusual discharge, a foul odour, itching, and painful urination.

Pelvic inflammatory disease

Also known as PID, pelvic inflammatory disease is an infection that occurs in the female reproductive organs. It’s usually caused by sexually transmitted bacteria spreading from the vagina to the ovaries, uterus, or fallopian tubes. The symptoms can be hard to notice, meaning some women may not even realise they have PID. Left untreated, PID can lead to chronic pelvic pain or difficulties conceiving. Symptoms can include pain, unusual vaginal discharge, unusual bleeding, painful urination, painful sex, fever and chills.

Metronidazole can also be used to treat infected insect bites, skin ulcers, wounds, and bed sores. In some circumstances, it can be used to treat and prevent bacterial and parasitic infections. When used with other medications, it can be effective in treating stomach and intestinal ulcers caused by a bacteria called H. pylori.

Metronidazole side effects

All medications run the risk of side effects. Not everyone who takes metronidazole will experience side effects or the same side effects. Most reported cases of side effects were mild and temporary. If you’re taking the cream or gel, it’s unlikely you’ll have any side effects.

Commonly reported side effects to include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • A metallic taste in the mouth

If you experience any serious side effects or your side effects don’t subside, speak to your pharmacist, GP, or prescriber.

Metronidazole Precautions

You shouldn’t take this medication if you are allergic to it or other antibiotics. Those with liver disease and kidney disease should also consult with their doctor before taking metronidazole. Be sure to be completely honest about your medical history with your prescriber to avoid any unintentional interactions.

Avoid drinking alcohol while taking this medication and for the two days following your course of treatment. Alcohol can make side effects worse as well as give you stomach pain, hot flushes, increased heart rate, and headaches. Anything with propylene glycol or cannabis can affect you the same way as alcohol does when taking this medication.

Some vaccines may not work well with some of the active ingredients with metronidazole so speak to your healthcare professional before having any vaccines soon after treatment.

How should I use metronidazole?

Since metronidazole is prescription only, your prescriber will give you specific instructions on how to take the medication and for how long. They will also advise you on the correct metronidazole dosage for your condition.

In addition to this, your medication will include a leaflet with further information. It’s important to take your medication exactly as prescribed, even if you start to feel better. Not finishing your full course of treatment can prevent the infection from fully clearing your system and cause it to come back.

You shouldn’t take antibiotics if you don’t actually need them because you may end up building a tolerance to antibiotics. This means that when you do need antibiotics, they might not be as effective against your infection. Antibiotic resistance is an increasing problem in the UK, which is why you shouldn’t try to take antibiotics for illnesses that they can’t treat.

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