Accutane is a strong drug typically used to treat moderate to severe cases of acne. The active ingredient is a compound called isotretinoin, and regular treatment for a period of several months is usually enough to clear up most cases of acne.
What are the side effects of Accutane?
Why shouldn’t all acne patients take isotretinoin? Unfortunately, the medications has significant side effects. Following is a list of the most common ones, followed by their frequency of occurrence:
- Chapped lips 90%
- Dry itchy skin 80% – the use of daily alpha hydroxacids will help prevent this side effect.
- Dry nose/mild nosebleed 80%
- Eyelid/eyes irritation 40% -Vitamin E 400 IU each day may lessen this side effect.
- Joint/muscle pain 15%
- Thinning of hair 10%
- Rash development 7%
- Intestinal issues 5%
- Urinary problems 5%
- Headaches 5%
- Increased sun sensitivity 5% – the use of daily sunscreen will help prevent this side effect.
- Reduced night vision <1%
- Depression/Suicidal thoughts <1%
There is evidence that Accutane can have a negative effect on the liver, as many medications do. As such it’s important to have your liver enzymes checked regularly while taking isotretinoin. The drug may also ramp up the level of fats in your blood.
Perhaps the biggest concern is the fact that Accutane can cause very serious birth defects if a women is on the medication while she is pregnant. That’s why it should never be taken by pregnant women or any woman who is trying to get pregnant. You need to make sure you employ an effective form of birth control if you are taking the accutane for acne treatment.
The risk of birth defects is so significant that users must sign up for the iPledge program in order to take the medication, which stipulates that a patient must use birth control one month before, during and one month after isotretinoin treatment for acne. This is obviously a very serious concern.
UPDATE: As of 2009, Accutane is no longer available. Due to the significant number of side effects, including potential inflammatory bowel disease, concerns by doctors and an FDA black box warning, the company, Hoffman LaRoche, decided to pull Accutane from the market. There are other isotretinoin products still available such as Absorica, Amnesteen, Claravis, Sotret and Myorisan.
How does isotretinoin work exactly?
The medication reduces the amount of sebum (oil) in the skin of your face, which in turn minimizes acne breakouts. The main cause of severe acne is an overproduction of sebum, so this medication helps counter that effect.