What is isotretinoin?
Isotretinoin is a powerful and effective medicine used
to treat severe acne that cannot be cleared up with other medicines, including
antibiotics. It is a man-made retinoid (derived from vitamin A). Isotretinoin
usually needs to be taken for 3 to 6 months.
Isotretinoin works by
unclogging skin pores and shrinking oil glands.
What are the risks of taking isotretinoin?
Isotretinoin can cause side effects. The most serious side effects occur
in women who are pregnant or get pregnant while taking it. They may have a
miscarriage, or their infant may be born with severe birth defects. Other
serious side effects are rare.
The U.S. Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) warns that using isotretinoin may be linked with
psychosis, and, in rare cases, suicidal thoughts or
suicide attempts. The link between isotretinoin and depression is not clear,
and it is being watched very closely. For more information on isotretinoin and
depression, talk with your doctor to decide whether isotretinoin is right for
you or your child. If you or your child is taking isotretinoin and experiencing
signs of depression, see your doctor for treatment.
side effects affect almost everyone who takes isotretinoin. These include dry
skin, dry mouth, chapped lips, nosebleeds, dry eyes and difficulty wearing
contact lenses, and increased skin sensitivity to sunlight. These side effects
usually are not bothersome and can be treated with moisturizers, artificial
tears, and other products. If you have dry eyes while taking isotretinoin, you
may have to wear glasses instead of contact lenses.
can cause higher-than-normal levels of certain fats (triglycerides)
in your blood. High levels of triglycerides may make you more likely to develop
certain health problems, such as heart disease. For this reason, all people
need to have their blood checked for triglyceride levels before starting this
medicine and every 4 to 6 weeks while taking it.
muscle or joint pain are less common side effects that you can usually treat
with Tylenol or anti-inflammatory medicines. Muscle and joint pain are more
common in people who exercise regularly.
If you need more information, see the topic