Accutane and Its Side Effects

Accutane or Isotretinoin is an oral medication often used to treat severe nodulocytic acne. Nodulocytic acne is characterized by inflammation, breakouts and cysts. It is painful and often leaves scarring. You will need to go to a dermatologist to treat this form of acne. Dermatologists use a topical and systemic medication. Accutane is the most common prescription and it is almost a “cure” for acne. Watch out for the many possible side effects of using isotretinoin or Accutane. The side effects can be very debilitating.

Accutane is the only drug on the market with the potential to clear severe acne permanently and after only one course of treatment. One course is typically five months and results in prolonged remissions is 85% of patients. Isotretinoin is classified as a retinoid and usually highly effective. (Retinoids are chemical compounds that are related to vitamin A. They regulate epithelial cell growth and are highly used to treat skin cancers.)

Isotretinoin acts to shrink the sebaceous glands and causes your skin to become excessively dry. Skin flakes or peels and lips may be chapped. Your eyes and the inside of your nose feels dry. You will need to use a moisturizer on a daily basis. Dermatologists suggest emollient creams. If you use creams that are labeled noncomedogenic your pores won’t become clogged. Use petroleum jelly for your lips and inside the nose.

Side Effects

Miscarriages and severe birth defects are the most devastating side effects of Accutane. Doctors caution that Accutane must never be used while pregnant. Even a single dose of the drug can cause severe birth defects. Women of childbearing age are required to use two forms of birth control before, during and for one month after treatment. There are also limitations on filling Accutane prescriptions.

Birth defects include enlargement of the fluid-filled spaces in the brain or hydrocephaly. Your unborn child could also develop microcephaly (small head), heart defects, facial deformities and mental retardation.

Warnings against taking Accutane while pregnant are highly emphasized. Many doctors recommend and encourage women of child-bearing age who are contemplating taking Accutane undergo a Pregnancy Prevention Program. Those who are exempt from Accutane’s contraceptive obligations are men, women who had had a hysterectomy or those who will abstain from sex during the treatments.

Depression and suicide are well publicized side effects of Accutane. These side effects are somewhat rare, but if you feel changes in your mood or behavior let your doctor know immediately. If you feel irritable, have trouble with concentration or see and hear things that are not real get help quickly.

Isotretinoin (Accutane) treatment will cause photosensitivity. Your skin will be very sensitive to the sun and sun burn and skin damage is a high possibility. Wear sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 every day. Do not go to tanning salons and avoid the beach unless you are well covered with clothing and sunscreen.

Triglycerides or a type of fat in your blood will be effected by Isotretinoin. High triglycerides lead to heart disease. You will be monitored during the course of your treatment to ensure triglycerides stay within acceptable limits.

There are other side effects include thinning hair, decreased night vision and fatigue. You may experience vomiting and nausea as well as headaches. Bone and joint pain are side effects as is diarrhea or rectal bleeding. If you have severe chest or abdominal pain plus difficulty in swallowing contact your doctor.

Using Accutane is a bit of a balancing act. The product is awesome in its acne curing properties, but the side effects may be too much for some potential patients. Take care of your health, follow the recommendations, and keep in close contact with your dermatologist and doctor.


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