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Accutane Side Effects: Pros and Cons of Using Accutane for Acne

Updated on July 31, 2009

Accutane For Acne

Accutane (generic name: isotretinoin) is a prescription medication used to treat severe nodular acne. Accutane is a synthetic form of Vitamin A that creates a potentially long-lasting change in the cells lining the pore. This change prevents pore openings from getting plugged, so oil can flow freely to the skin's surface. Plus, it reduces the amount of oil secreted by oil glands in your skin and helps your skin renew itself faster.

It is usually prescribed after other acne medications and/or antibiotics have been tried without successful clearing of symptoms.

Accutane Benefits in Getting Rid of Acne

Accutane is the most important prescription medication in the arsenal of drugs used to treat severe and persistent nodular, cystic acne.

It's been available since 1984, and since then it proved to be a wonderful treatment for many patients treated with it. These patients, especially those suffering from severe cystic acne or nodular acne, would have had few conventional treatment options otherwise, and Accutane has been a miracle they have been hoping for.

If you have severe acne that has not responded to other treatments, you may be a candidate for a five to six month course of Accutane. Your prescription dose of Accutane will be tailored to your weight and should always be taken with a meal.

Accutane Side Effects: Read These Warnings Before You Start Your Treatment

Accutane is a strong medication that has a number of potentially serious side effects, some of which can be permanent. You must be under close medical supervision when taking this medication, even though overwhelming majority of patients will not experience any of them.

Minor Side Effects

Some of these side effects are not severe and can be easily tolerated. These include:

  • dry, flaking skin, chapped lips, and nosebleeds: Accutane works by reducing oil production, so the downside is that your skin will become very dry and your lips chapped;
  • poor night vision: some people experience sudden difficulty seeing in the dark, which, for example, makes driving at night dangerous;
  • joint pain, back pain;
  • discomfort wearing contact lenses;
  • persistent headaches.

Serious Side Effects

Most of these side effects are extremely rare. All these side effects, usually go away after the medication is discontinued. Patients who experience side effects while using Accutane should tell their doctor. The doctor may be able to reduce the dose so that the side effects are reduced.

  • Inflammation of the liver demonstrated by abnormal liver enzymes; periodic tests are performed on patients on Accutane; liver inflammation is more likely in patients who drink alcohol or take other medications. Any liver damage can be reversed when the medication is stopped;
  • falling red and white blood cell count ;
  • increased cholesterol and triglyceride levels;
  • weaker bones: sports or activities that may result in injury or bone fracture shoud be avoided;
  • skin more sensitive to sunlight: avoid exposure to sunlight or artificial UV rays;
  • pancreatitis;
  • seizure;
  • severe diarrhea;
  • mood changes;
  • depression and thoughts of suicide or hurting yourself;
  • brain swelling - an extremely rare side effect that can be reversed when the medication is stopped.

Only a small percentage of patients will experience any of the serious conditions listed here.

Accutane and Pregnancy

  • For your baby's sake, you must NEVER, EVER take Accutane when you are pregnant.
  • Accutane can cause severe, life-threatening birth defects if the woman takes the medication during pregnancy. A single dose of Accutane can lead to defects of the baby's eyes, ears, skull, heart, and brain. It can also lead to miscarriage, premature birth, or even death of the baby.
  • Fertile women of childbearing age who take Accutane must not be pregnant or become pregnant during treatment or for three months after discontinuing treatment.
  • Prior to starting the treatment any woman of child-bearing age must agree in writing to take two forms of birth control and take pregnancy tests prior to, during and following the treatment.

Accutane Treatment

Accutane is a very scary drug to many people, and it certainly is not one to be taken lightly. If you have severe acne, but you are afraid of Accutane, talk to your doctor about it. The only side effect the majority of the patients have is dry skin and chapped lips.

  • Accutane is available exclusively under a special program called iPLEDGE. You must be registered in the program and sign release papers that you understand the dangers of the treatment. DO NOT try to buy Accutane online or from vendors from outside of the US.
  • Most patients requrie only one course of treatemnt to see results.After 4 to 5 months of taking the medication, these patients are able to see truly dramatic improvement in their condition. About 30 percent need a second course. Only about 10 percent fail to permanently respond and have have required a third course of the medication.
  • You will have to take mandatory blood tests, including liver provile studies, a complete blood count, cholesterol and triglyceride levels to detect any serious problems, and a serum pregnancy test every month for women in the childbearing age.

Research into various retinoid treatments for acne is continuing, and new topical retinoids are now available that may be less irritating to the skin.

Natural Alternatives to Accutane

Although Accutane is recommended for many patients with severe acne, and has provided them significant or complete relief from acne; Accutane is not the best way to free your body from acne.

Stopping your skin's natural oil production, can in most cases, result in extra dryness combined with the acceleration of the skin's aging process (yes! your skin will look older). Moreover, Accutane severely damages your liver function among other side effects, which in turn destroys your delicate inner balance and your natural healing abilities. Hence, it is doing the opposite of curing.

Consider this: Accutane will only treat the symptoms of the disease and not the internal cause of the problem. If you suffer from acne, whether you have a sporadic breakout every now and then or chronic, progressive lesions – eliminating is a multilayered task. To get rid of acne permanently, one must treat the entire body and address the true causes of the problem, and not just the symptoms. This includes proper acne free diet, exercise, sleep, stress management, and other factors; which will have a positive effect on your entire body.


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      Accutane Lawsuit Settlements 7 years ago

      FDA has already investigate this side effects brought by this faulty medicine. For now you can gather more evidence so that you can give it to your trusted lawyer as well.

    • profile image

      firdauskhan 7 years ago

      Click Here ! Accutane safety alert , you may be entitled for compensation


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