Accutane Side Effects

What You Need to Know About Isotretinoin (Accutane) Side Effects

Isotretinoin, more popularly known as Accutane, is an oral medication used to treat severe nodulocystic acne. It is the closest thing we have to an acne "cure." But isotretinoin comes with a host of possible side effects. Before starting isotretinoin treatment, be absolutely certain you understand what they are.

Miscarriage and Severe Birth Defects

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Probably the most widely known side effect of Accutane treatment is the effect it has on a developing fetus. Accutane must never be used while pregnant. Even one dose of the drug while pregnant can cause severe birth defects.

Women of childbearing potential must submit to regular pregnancy tests are required to use two forms of birth control, both before, during, and for one month after treatment.

There are also limitations on how and when you fill your Accutane prescription, with patients required to take steps to prevent pregnancy while taking the drug.

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Dryness of the Skin and Mucus Membranes

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Because isotretinoin shrinks the sebaceous glands, nearly everyone who takes it will experience dry skin to some degree. Your skin may flake or peel, your lips may get chapped, and your eyes and inside the nose might feel dry.

To combat dry skin, you will need to use a moisturizer daily. Your favorite light lotion may not be moisturizing enough during your isotretinoin treatment. Try a more emollient cream. As long as it is labeled noncomedogenic, you shouldn't have to worry about it clogging your pores. For lips and the skin inside the nose, try applying a salve like petroleum jelly.

Depression and Suicide

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Depression and suicide are the most publicized side effects of Accutane. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns Accutane may cause depression, psychosis, and thoughts of suicide.

These side effects are very rare. Still, you should tell your doctor about any changes in your mood or behavior. Are you feeling irritable, sad, or having trouble concentrating? Are you seeing or hearing things that aren't real? Do you have thoughts of hurting yourself? Let your doctor know right away.


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During isotretinoin treatment is not the time to work on your tan. Isotretinoin can cause your skin to become more sensitive to the sun, a condition called photosensitivity. You'll be more susceptible to sunburn and sun damage.

While using this drug, you should wear a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15, every day, even if you don't typically burn. You'll also want to stay out of tanning beds and booths

High Blood Triglycerides

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Before and during your isotretinoin treatment, your doctor will check your blood triglyceride levels. Triglycerides, which are a type of fat in your blood, can be effected by certain medications including isotretinoin.

High blood trigylcerides can lead to other health problems, like heart disease. Your doctor will monitor your blood triglycerides during the course of your treatment, to make sure they stay within safe levels.

Other Accutane Side Effects

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Accutane may also cause thinning hair, decreased night vision, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, headaches, bone and joint pain, diarrhea or rectal bleeding, severe chest or abdominal pain, and difficult or painful swallowing.

The numerous possible side effects of Accutane treatment can scare off even the most steadfast. But for those who are struggling with severe acne, Accutane can be a wonder drug. Talk with your doctor, and together you can decide if Accutane treatment is the right treatment for you.

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