2 experts explain everything you need to know about Accutane

Have you experienced severe acne at any time in your life? It can be described as chronic, cystic lumps that form deep under the skin – and seem to stick around for a while. So you may already be familiar with Accutane.



icon: 2 experts break down everything you need to know about Accutane


© Getty / Yulia Reznikov
2 experts explain everything you need to know about Accutane

Technically speaking, Accutane was a brand name (which is no longer manufactured) for a acne medicine called isotretinoin, a derivative of vitamin A, explained a New York-based dermatologist Neal schultz, MD. This oral acne medication is still available today, but must be prescribed by a professional.

Robyn gmyrek, dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology, added, “It works by decreasing the amount of oil production released by the sebaceous glands in the skin, [and] has the potential to provide long-term acne relief after five months of treatment. “

She said the ideal candidate is someone with acne scars who tried – unsuccessfully – others topical home treatments, antibiotics or hormonal agents such as spironolactone. If you are interested in trying Accutane / Isotretinoin, we spoke with Dr Gymrek and Dr Schultz to learn about common side effects and risks. Here’s what you need to know.

Mild short-term side effects of Accutane

Before you start taking isotretinoin, you should know that a typical treatment plan lasts between three and six months. During these months, it is common to experience the following mild, short-term side effects. The higher your dose, the more noticeable these side effects may be. For this reason, some doctors prescribe low doses which are taken over a longer period of time.

Dry skin, especially lips, which can lead to eczema or dermatitis

Dry eyes

Acne can get worse before it gets better

Nosebleeds due to dry nasal mucosa

Bone, muscle, or joint pain (may be mild or severe)

Decreased night vision

Increased sensitivity to the sun

Increased muscle sensitivity

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"The nose is the best organ for breathing," says Dr. Sharona Dayan, certified periodontist and founder of Aurora Periodontal Care in Beverly Hills. "It warms and humidifies the air to prepare it for the lungs, while the cilia filter toxins from the air.  It sucks nitric oxide from the sinuses to disinfect the air.  Nitric oxide also dilates blood vessels for oxygen, so there is 60 percent more oxygen in the air in your nose."As for the mouth, well: "The mouth, on the other hand, supplies cold, unfiltered, and dirty air to the throat and lungs.  Mouth breathing also causes 60 percent moisture loss from the mouth.  Saliva contains immunoglobulins which fight germs, so a dry mouth due to mouth breathing is more susceptible to infections."

Increased triglyceride levels in the blood

Serious short-term side effects of Accutane

It is very important to speak with your dermatologist regularly while you are taking Accutane / Isotretinoin. She can offer advice on how to make the above side effects more tolerable and may adjust your dose (or stop treatment) if serious side effects occur. That said, here are a few things to watch out for:

Pancreatitis: “This is a condition that occurs if lipids or fats, like triglycerides, rise in the blood and flow back up into the pancreas, causing pain and inflammation in the pancreas. Blood tests are done to monitor lipids. during treatment with Accutane, “said Dr. Gmyrek. Pancreatitis presents as sudden or continuous pain in the abdomen or back. You may also feel bloated, nauseous, or have vomiting, loss of appetite, and indigestion.

Damage and / or inflammation of the liver: “Patients are advised not to drink alcohol during treatment, and laboratory work monitors the liver during treatment,” said Dr Gmyrek. Liver damage often doesn’t have obvious symptoms, but you may feel tired, have abdominal pain, or lose weight unexpectedly.

Mood or behavior changes / possible depression

Suicide attempts or suicidal thoughts

Bone, muscle, or joint pain (may be mild or severe)

Serious malformations of the fetus if pregnancy occurs while taking the medicine or within four weeks of the last dose.

Serious long-term side effects of Accutane

Although the above side effects usually stop after treatment, you may experience some lingering or permanent side effects. Again, talk to your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms, and they will be able to help. Everyone is different and all treatments vary accordingly. Dermatologists we spoke to said that the serious long-term side effects are as follows:

Painful bone spurs

Closure of bone growth plates, which prevents you from growing taller

Decreased vision in the dark, which may occur during treatment and persist after stopping the drug

Hair loss or alopecia may occur during treatment and may persist after stopping

Malformations and long-term effects in a born infant, if exposed in utero, to the drug via ingestion of the drug by the mother

Latent side effects of Accutane

Latent side effects refer to problems triggered by your medicine that may not be obvious to you. In fact, sometimes it can take months or years after treatment for these side effects to even be noticed! When we asked Dr Gymrek about the latent side effects of isotretinoin, here is what she said:

“It is not clear, and more data and studies need to be done, but it appears that Accutane / isotretinoin may cause the onset or worsening of inflammatory bowel disease in people predisposed to it. disease, ”said Dr. Gmyrek. “I am referring to patients who have a history of inflammatory bowel disease or a strong family history of inflammatory bowel disease.”

Final remark

The side effects of Accutane / Isotretinoin, like many drugs, seem pretty scary. However, it has proven to be an effective treatment for people with severe and persistent acne who have no more options. We recommend that you educate yourself about the drug, as you already do, and make an appointment with a dermatologist for a more personalized review of what this drug can do for you.

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