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Accutane For Acne: Everything You Need To Know

Medically reviewed by Dr. Vindhya L Veerula, MD, FAAD
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Accutane For Acne: Everything You Need To Know May 3, 2019

If you have stumbled upon this article, you’d have already tried an insane number of acne treatments without any results. Whether you are battling a cluster of whiteheads or a serious case of cystic acne, there are a number of treatments available these days to help you out. One such treatment option is Accutane. Accutane gets the job done when everything else fails. Read on to find out how it can help you get rid of acne.

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What Is Accutane?

What Is Accutane Pinit

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Accutane is the brand name of Isotretinoin, a prescription drug for treating severe acne. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, Accutane (or Isotretinoin) is exceptionally effective in treating cystic acne and large nodules that often result in scarring. It is usually the last resort when nothing else has worked (1).

Isotretinoin belongs to a class of drugs called retinoids that are derivatives of vitamin A. They are considered to be the core topical medicines for treating acne. This is because retinoids are comedolytic (prevent comedone formation) and have an anti-inflammatory effect on your skin. So, let’s find out how Accutane helps you fight acne.

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How Does Accutane Treat Acne?

How Does Accutane Treat Acne Pinit

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1. It Reduces Sebum Production

Excess sebum production is one of the major triggers of acne. The excess oil blocks the skin pores that further get clogged by dead skin cells and bacteria. Isotretinoin helps in controlling excess sebum production. A study found that oral intake of isotretinoin can reduce sebum production by 90% in just six weeks (2).

2. It Decreases The Number Of P. acnes Bacteria

Orally administered Isotretinoin or Accutane can significantly reduce the number of P. acnes bacteria on your skin. It also works on the bacteria that has become resistant to previous antibiotic treatments (3).

3. It Helps Reduce Inflammation

Accutane calms down the inflammation caused by the acne-causing bacteria on your skin (2).

Accutane treatment either gets rid of acne for good or reduces its severity the next time you have a breakout. Although it is an excellent treatment option for acne, it has also been associated with severe side effects. Let’s find out what they are.

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What Are The Risks And Side Effects Of Accutane?

1. It Might Lead To Hair Loss

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A 2013 study shows that patients who were suffering from severe acne vulgaris and treated with isotretinoin experienced telogen effluvium (temporary hair loss) (4).

A Note: To prevent hair loss, you can increase your intake of vitamin B – because a study found that isotretinoin caused a reduction in the folic acid and vitamin B12 in the body (5). So, you can ask your doctor to prescribe you vitamins to prevent hair loss.

2. It Causes Skin Dryness

Isotretinoin can also make your skin (and hair) dry. This might cause flakiness, itching, and rashes on your skin. It might even make your hair more prone to breakage (4). You may ask your doctor to recommend hair and skin products to combat these issues.

3. It May Cause Inflammatory Bowel Disease

It May Cause Inflammatory Bowel Disease Pinit

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Using Isotretinoin might cause Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Some users of Isotretinoin reported having experienced IBD (6). The common symptoms of this condition include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Abdominal pain and cramps
  • Weight loss

4. It May Cause Allergic Reactions

Although this is extremely rare, it is not unheard of. If you are using Isotretinoin, and you see red patches, rashes, and hives on your skin, inform your doctor immediately.

Since the side effects of Accutane are undoubtedly serious, it should not be taken without consulting a doctor. You must be wondering what exactly happens when you stop continuing the medicine. Find out in the next section!

5. It May Cause Mood Changes, Leading To Suicide And Depression

Sometimes, accutane can cause changes in your mood. If you are prescribed Isotretinoin, it is important that you follow up with your doctor frequently. They will ask you about your mood and if you have experienced any changes. It is important to be honest and upfront about any changes you experience.

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What Happens When You Stop Taking Accutane Or Isotretinoin?

What Happens When You Stop Taking Accutane Or Isotretinoin Pinit

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Once you stop taking the medication:

  • Your acne condition may get better.
  •  Most of your side effects may go away in a few weeks.

However, if your side effects do not go away in a few weeks even after you have stopped taking medicine, talk to your doctor immediately. If you want to start the treatment again after quitting, you can do so 9 or 10 weeks after the first round of treatments. But, before you even start Accutane treatment, there are a few things you need to keep in mind, and they are listed below.

Points To Keep In Mind Before Starting Accutane

  • If you have a family history of diabetes, heart disease, or liver issues, do not forget to inform your doctor about it.
  • Inform your doctor if you are allergic to any medicine.
  • Avoid taking vitamin A pills or multivitamins when undergoing treatment.
  • During the initial stage of the treatment, your acne might worsen. Don’t worry about it as it will subside in a few days.
  • During treatment, your doctor might change your dosage. Make sure that you stick to the dosage as instructed by your doctor.
  • Always keep your doctor informed of any side effects that you experience.

Accutane is one of the best treatments available for severe acne. However, keep in mind that everyone’s skin is different. Understand what your skin wants (with the help of your doctor) and then take steps accordingly. Be patient with your skin and stick to the treatment to see results.

Have any more questions about Accutane? Drop them in the comments section below, and we’ll get back to you.

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Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

How long do you have to be on Accutane?

It depends on your dosage. However, the treatment usually lasts between 4 and 8 months.

Can I take Accutane during pregnancy?

Those who are pregnant or lactating should avoid taking Accutane at all costs. You need to be off of the medicine for at least 30 days prior to conception. If you are undergoing the treatment, avoid getting pregnant.

References

  1. Isotretinoin: Treatment for Severe Acne” American Academy of Dermatology
  2. The Use Of Isotretinoin In Acne” Dermato Endocrinology, US National Library of Medicine.
  3. Non-antibiotic Isotretinoin..” Frontiers in Microbiology, US National Library of Medicine.
  4. Evaluation of biophysical skin..” Advances In Dermatology And Allergology, US National Library of Medicine.
  5. Decreased Vitamin B12 and Folic Acid..” Indian Journal of Dermatology, US National Library of Medicine.
  6. Isotretinoin Use and the Risk..” The American Journal of Gastroenterology, US National Library of Medicine.
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