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Treating Severe Acne With Accutane

Could Accutane be the cure-all for severe acne?

Many people of all ages are troubled by irritating outbreaks of acne and are searching for a cure, once and for all. Very often, in severe cases of acne, their search leads them to Accutane. Also known as Isotretinoin, Accutane is taken orally, and is available only by prescription. It is a five month treatment regimen for severe cystic acne.

Taken once daily with food, Accutane works by decreasing the amount of oils produced by the glands. Acne may worsen before it gets better, and it usually takes about two months on Accutane to notice improvements in symptoms.

While it can be very effective, Accutane has many significant side effects, ranging from mildly irritating to severely life-threatening.

The most frequent side effects reported by Accutane users are:

  • Dry, chapped, or peeling lips
  • Dry, itchy skin 
  • Dry nose, mild nosebleeds 
  • Irritation of the eyelids and/or dry eyes 
  • Joint and muscle pain 
  • Thinning of the hair 
  • Rash 
  • Intestinal problems 
  • Urinary problems 
  • Headache 
  • Increased skin sensitivity to light and sunburn 
  • Decreased night vision, which may continue after completing treatment 
Accutane may also increase the level of blood fats (cholesterol), sometimes to dangerous levels, which may interfere with liver function. Prior to starting the Accutane regimen, blood tests are required to rule out pregnancy and establish a baseline for monitoring cholesterol levels. Frequent blood work is ordered by dermatologists to check these levels which, if too high, may cause complications with liver functioning.

The most dangerous side effect of Accutane is severe birth defects if taken during pregnancy. It is strongly recommended to avoid becoming pregnant during treatment and for at least one month after stopping Accutane.

Accutane is not guaranteed to cure acne. Reports have found 1 in 10 Accutane users have reoccurrences of acne one year later and 1 in 4 users after two years. It may be prescribed again for reoccurrences of acne.

Important: Only you, with your doctor, can determine if treating your acne problem with Accutane is worth the potential risks involved. You should NEVER take ANY medication or use ANY treatment without first consulting your physician. The opinions and advice expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of this website.

About the Author:

Diane Darling, COTA/L, is a licensed and certified occupational therapy assistant who works with learning-challenged children. She also has a keen interest in issues of skin care and acne.

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