Side Effects Of Isotretinoin (Accutane)

side effects

Accutane is a name which is often used to refer to the drug Isotretinoin, however the drug known as Accutane was actually withdrawn from sale several years ago.

Isotretinoin is still available, however, and is prescribed to treat very severe cases of acne which have proven to be unresponsive to any other form of treatment. It is also prescribed for some other uses too, including some forms of cancer and other skin conditions.

The amount prescribed varies between individuals, with the length of treatment usually being between 4-5 months.

There are several brand names of Isotretinoin drugs available today, and while Accutane can no longer be found, Sotret, Myorisan, Calravis, Amnesteem and Absorica are other versions which are in common use.

Isotretinoin is a drug which is derived from Reinoid (or vitamin A). This means that the human body reacts to Isotretinoin in almost the same way as it would to vitamin A.

As this vitamin builds up in the tissues of the body it can become problematic. This means that if you’re taking Isotretinoin you should avoid taking any vitamin A supplements.

While this drug can help to clear the skin of acne, there are a number of unwanted side effects associated with its use. Most, however, will fade in a couple of weeks after you stop using it.

Possible Effects When Taking Isotretinoin (Accutane)

When taking Isotretinoin, you may experience side effects which affect several areas of your body. These include the following:

Skin & Hair

As you may imagine, since Isotretinoin has been prescribed to combat acne, it will have a clear effect on your skin.

It treats severe acne by targeting bacteria, clogged pores, oil production and inflammation.

However, in the early days of use, you may experience worsening of your acne problem before you see any improvement.

Chapped lips are another common side effect, together with other dry areas of skin.

You may discover that your nasal passages become dry which may lead to an increase chance of nosebleeds.

Isotretinoin makes skin more sensitive to the sun’s rays, so using tanning devices and going out in the sun without any sunscreen on should be avoided.

Some people who use this drug also develop peeling skin, rashes or fragile skin on the soles of their feet and palms of their hands.

Some also experience yellowing of their skin.

When it comes to hair, some users report that their hair becomes thinner, while the increased fragility of the skin means that hair removal techniques such as dermabrasion, laser treatments and waxing could cause scarring. This means that any of these forms of hair removal should be avoided for at least 6 months after ceasing treatment.

Reproductive Issues

Isotretinoin has been proven to be dangerous for use in pregnant women. This is because it can damage the developing fetus.

Women who are prescribed this medication should ensure that they aren’t pregnant before beginning using this medication and should always use birth control while taking Isotretinoin. This should be continued for at least 4 weeks after stopping taking the medication, and should you accidentally become pregnant while taking the drug you should cease its use immediately and let your doctor know.

Isotretinoin use by pregnant women can result in miscarriage, fetus death or a premature birth.

It could also cause birth defects and deformities such as hearing loss, missing or small ears, missing or small eyes, missing or small thymus gland, microcephaly, congenital heart defects, hydrocephalus and cleft palates.

Men who are taking Isotretinoin must also be very careful about using birth control as the drug may be found in their semen.

As yet, it has not been proven whether or not this may result in birth defects.

It may also pass through to the baby in breast milk, so breastfeeding while using Isotretinoin should be avoided.

Anyone who is prescribed Isotretinoin must be registered with iPLEDGE, a restricted distribution FDA-approved program which informs people about birth defect risks and helps prevent pregnancies.

Central Nervous System Problems

Isotretinoin may affect the central nervous system resulting in side effects such as tiredness, headaches, dry eyes, difficulty in seeing in dark conditions, hearing loss or ringing in the ears.

woman with headache

Pressure inside the brain can also be caused by Isotretinoin.

This can be life-threatening and the symptoms include blurred vision, severe headaches, dizziness, vomiting, nausea, strokes and seizures.

Mood changes are also common, with many users experiencing sadness and irritability and some suffering from serious mental health disorders like suicidal thoughts, psychosis and depression.

Allergic Reactions

All medications have the possibility of causing allergic reactions. The symptoms may include swelling of the face or mouth, breathing problems and hives. 

If you experience any form of allergic reactions you should consult your doctor.

Excretory And Digestive System Problems

Isotretinoin may cause digestive tract problems.

The symptoms can include poor appetite, stomach pains, bleeding gums, heartburn, dark urine, bowel pains, nausea, rectal bleeding, diarrhea and vomiting. These symptoms may suggest damage has been caused to the intestines, liver, pancreas or esophagus.

Your cholesterol and liver levels may need to be monitored when you take this medication.

Bone, Muscle And Blood Problems

When you take Isotretinoin, your white and red blood cell count may drop. This can result in symptoms like difficulty in breathing and fainting.

As Isotretinoin builds in the bloodstream it’s possible to develop problems with lipid and blood sugar levels.

You should not donate blood either while taking Isotretinoin or for a month after stopping taking it since it can represent a danger to pregnant women.

You may also experience pain your joints, bones, ligaments and muscles. Some users also experience stiffness is the muscles and joints.

Conclusion

Although Accutane as a brand isn’t being sold today, there are still lots of other brands which are selling generic forms of Isotretinoin. They can all cause the side effects mentioned above.

While Isotretinoin is known to be an effective way to treat severe and treatment resistant acne, there are a number of potentially serious side effects including mental health disorders and digestive problems.

Also, if Isotretinoin is taken by a pregnant woman, there are other dangers such as birth defects and miscarriages.

Therefore, care needs to be taken if you’re planning on taking this medication to make sure that you are aware of the possible risks.

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