How Effective is Accutane for Treating Acne?

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It happens to most of us, some more than others. Whether it’s one pimple that shows up smack-dab in the middle of your forehead or a full-blown breakout, acne has the power to ruin one’s day – even just a mild breakout can affect your outlook in general.

While some may chalk zits up to being a vanity issue, it’s a serious problem for countless men and women of all ages.

According to a study published in the British Journal of Dermatology, acne patients experienced social, psychological, and emotional ramifications at the same level of those with chronic health problems, such as epilepsy, diabetes, and arthritis.

For mild acne, there’s the option of over-the-counter (OTC) acne treatments, which do not require a prescription from your doctor. These are usually milder than prescription-strength products and are readily accessible.

Unfortunately, medicated cleansers, topical creams and gels don’t work for everyone.

Rather than go into hiding until their blemishes clear up on their own or cake on the Clearasil and unsightly cover up, many acne sufferers are optioning for Accutane – a form of Vitamin A that reduces the amount of oil released by oil glands in your skin, and is said to help your skin renew itself more quickly.

Wondering just how effective this is for getting rid of acne? Let’s examine the facts before you consider this treatment.

Understanding Acne

Are you worried that chocolate bar will wage war on your skin? Some believe a breakout is caused by a diet of fast food and sugar, while others believe it’s a hormonal issue. However, the real culprit is inflammation of the oily glands in the skin – they are called sebaceous glands – that contain a fatty material called sebum.

According to the Canadian Dermatology Association, overactive sebaceous (oil-producing) glands that start producing more sebum usually start at puberty. In some people, the excess sebum clogs pores, which leads to the inflammation (redness and swelling) often associated with acne.

Furthermore, heredity (your genes) is another factor that can determine who gets acne and how severe.

So, if either or both of your parents had acne, you are more likely to develop the skin condition too.

Enter Accutane.

What is Accutane?

For those affected by severe nodular acne sufferers and have tried everything from acne medicines to antibiotics and have been disappointed by their results, Accutane is a popular option.

This medicine comes in pill form –you will take one or two pills a day as your dermatologist prescribes.

The use of Accutane (isotretinoin), aka Roaccutane, dates back to 1979 when it was first given to patients with severe acne.

This Vitamin A derivative (13-cis-retinoic acid) is administered orally in pill form with a meal that contains an adequate amount of fat, normally for 15 to 20 weeks.

While it was originally prescribed for severe cases, it has gained popularity in the past 25 years and is commonly prescribed more frequently for less severe acne as well.

How Does Accutane Work?

Accutane works by reducing the amount of oil released by oil glands in your skin, and helping your skin renew itself more quickly.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, about 85% of patients see their skin permanently clear after one course of treatment.

On average, a course of treatment generally lasts about 4 to 5 months – however, it can run shorter or longer.

Something to keep in mind is that not all patients experience results after one course of treatment – a second course may be an option. Note: You should wait at least 8 weeks between treatments.

The skin often continues to clear for a while after patients stop taking the medicine.

Is Accutane Safe?

Some of the most serious health effects come from isotretinoin products, such as Accutane that are derived from vitamin A. These products are prescribed to treat severe cases of acne that are difficult to treat any other way.

Some of the common side effects include:

  • Eye Irritation
  • Joint Pain
  • Nosebleed
  • Rash
  • Skin Infection
  • Tenderness of the Bones
  • Abnormal Peeling of Skin
  • Dry Eye
  • Dry Mouth
  • Dry Skin
  • Dryness of the Nose
  • Hair Loss
  • Head Pain
  • Inflammation of the Lips
  • Low Energy
  • Sun-Sensitive Skin
  • Liver damage

If taken by pregnant women, isotretinoin products can cause severely deformed babies or result in miscarriages, even if it is only used for a short time.

Women should not breastfeed if they are taking isotretinoin products, since doing so may harm the child, according to the Canadian Dermatology Association.

Your prescribing doctor will typically do baseline blood tests to check your liver then repeat the tests part way through the treatment course to make sure no damage is being done.

Although it is rare and there hasn’t been any reported direct evidence, these products have also been linked to depression, even suicide in some people. They can also increase your chances of developing diabetes, liver disease or heart disease if you have a family history of these diseases.

Isotretinoin products may also increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun and cause reduced night vision, which can come on suddenly.

Is Accutane for Me?

While it’s highly effective, not everyone is a candidate for this skin remedy.

Before you begin using Accutane to control your breakouts, it’s vital that you inform your doctor of any medical conditions or allergies you may have, any medications you are taking, whether you are pregnant or breast-feeding, any other significant facts about your health.

We currently use the Sciton BBL (ForeverYoung BBL) to treat acne and it works quite well. Consider that option by reading this blog post.

About Dr. Kumar Shivdasani

Dr. Kumar Shivdasani is a medical practitioner with 25 years experience. He began his career in emergency at Vancouver General Hospital and addiction medicine – later branching into cosmetic medicine. He is the owner of CüR Laser and Skin in Vancouver, BC. Education, good lifestyle and diet changes lay the foundation for developing overall health and wellness, helping Kumar’s clients achieve and maintain their target goals. Dr. Kumar is also dedicated to helping others as shown by his support for Summits of Hope and Turning Point Recovery

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