Isotretinoin for acne is the most effective treatment for severe acne, according to the May-June 2009 issue of Dermato-Endocrinology. Many people that use isotretinoin are free of acne after four to six months, while others experience significant improvement. Despite the fact that it’s very effective, many people prefer not to take isotretinoin due to the risk of serious side effects and some can’t take it due to various contraindications. We’ll tell you about how isotretinoin works, who shouldn’t take it, the possible side effects (and that’s a long list), as well as alternatives to isotretinoin. Talk to your doctor or a dermatologist if you have questions about the best acne treatment for you.
How Isotretinoin For Acne Works
Isotretinoin works in several different ways to cure acne. It has anti-inflammatory properties. It affects the pores in the skin, making them less likely to become clogged. It also reduces the production of sebum, an oily substance produced by the skin.
Who Should Not Take Isotretinoin For Acne
Women who are or may become pregnant should not take isotretinoin due to the risk of severe birth defects. Women that are sexually active should only use isotretinoin if they are willing to use contraception. Women who are breastfeeding should not use isotretinoin, either.
People with certain health problems may be advised not to use isotretinoin, including people with anorexia, severe depression, inflammatory bowel disease, liver problems, osteoporosis, and those that drink alcohol regularly. Make sure you talk to your doctor about any health problems and any medications you take before taking isotretinoin.
Isotretinoin Side Effects
Isotretinoin can cause numerous side effects, many of them quite serious. Of course, not everyone experiences every possible side effect. This list of potential side effects(1) is quite daunting, however. Possible isotretinoin side effects include:
- Abnormal menstrual periods
- Abnormally rapid heart rate
- Back pain, joint and muscle pain
- Bleeding of the gums
- Bruising easily
- Chest pain
- The decrease in bone mineral density
- Delayed wound healing
- Depression, thoughts of suicide
- Dry eyes
- Dry mouth (may be severe enough to require the use of a saliva substitute)
- Dry or cracked skin
- Flu-like symptoms
- Hearing loss
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Pancreatitis (an infection of the pancreas, which can be fatal)
- Rectal bleeding
- Ringing in the ears
- Sensitivity to the sun, burning easily
- Severe headache
- Sore throat, painful swallowing
- Stomach pain
- Thinning hair (which may not grow back even when you stop taking isotretinoin)
- Trouble concentrating
- Trouble sleeping
- Violent or aggressive behavior
- Vision changes (including decreased night vision, which may not get better even when you stop taking isotretinoin)
Isotretinoin can also cause very serious birth defects if women become pregnant while taking it. For that reason, doctors may do regular pregnancy tests before and while prescribing isotretinoin, and women are advised to use contraception while taking this medication.
Alternatives to Isotretinoin For Acne
There are many alternatives to isotretinoin for treating acne, including other oral medications and topical treatments. Our favorite is the Proactiv Solution Acne Treatment Kit. It contains a cleanser to remove dirt and oil, a toner and a facial mask that deep clean your face and minimize pores, and an acne treatment containing benzoyl peroxide, which is a very effective treatment for acne. We prefer it to isotretinoin, especially for mild to moderate cases of acne, because it carries a much lower risk of side effects (benzoyl peroxide can cause skin irritation in some people, but it’s safe for pregnant women and serious side effects are extremely rare). To learn more about Proactive, just follow this link to Amazon.com. They have the lowest prices and we found the customer reviews very helpful.