Accutane and Isotretinoin Side Effects: Experts Explain

Have you ever suffered from severe acne at some point in your life? It can be characterized by chronic cystic lumps that form deep under the skin and seem to persist for some time. So you may already be familiar with Accutane.

Technically speaking, Accutane was a brand name (which is no longer manufactured) for an acne drug 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 severe or scarring acne who has tried – without success – other 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
  • 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 advise you on how to make the above side effects more tolerable and may adjust your dose (or stop treatment) if any 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 while taking the drug, 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’s what she said:

“It’s 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 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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