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Don't Suffer: Teen Acne Is a 'Treatable Medical Condition'

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While extremely effective, this controversial drug is not without side effects. The FDA currently is considering placing this drug on a list of drugs that can only be obtained by registered doctors and patients.

Side effects of the drug include birth defects so women taking it must take precautions to prevent pregnancy. In addition, other possible side effects to Accutane may include depression and suicide, hair loss, muscle aches and pains, and vision loss. However, it does work, Mandy says. Within 20 weeks, Accutane completely clears up acne in 80% of people taking it, and in most cases, it is gone for good, he says.

Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) recently urged that Accutane's maker, Roche, should pay for independent studies of the medication's possible psychiatric side effects and called for additional FDA funds to study the drug. In May of this year, the congressman's son, B.J., committed suicide while on Accutane.

But "as dermatologists, we strongly believe that limiting access to Accutane is a disservice to patients," says Richard K. Scher, MD, president of the AAD and a professor of clinical dermatology at Columbia University and an attending dermatologist at Presbyterian Hospital in New York.

"Depression is a common problem in adolescents with or without acne. The links between suicide or depression and Accutane are unclear," Scher says. "To our knowledge, studies addressing the issue are yet to be completed and/or made available in medical literature."

Still, no matter what medication is chosen, acne treatment needs to begin as early as possible because when treatment begins too late, scarring can occur. The good news is that advances in dermatologic surgery are helping to make acne scars a thing of the past, Mandy says.

For example, certain lasers can help resculpt scars and elevate the scars that give skin a crater-type appearance. And dermatologists can now inject scars to elevate them by pumping them up with filling agents.

For more information on acne, visit the AAD web site at www.skincarephysicians.com/acnenet/index.html.

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