If you have severe cystic acne or acne that hasn’t responded to other treatments, isotretinoin may be an option. Available only through your dermatologist, Isotretinoin acne treatment was formerly sold under the Accutane® brand name. Accutane® has been taken off the market by its manufacturer; however, generic medications are still available by prescription.
Isotretinoin is a retinoid (a family of ingredients that are derived from vitamin A) that inhibits your sebaceous gland function (oil production). With the exit of Accutane®, isotretinoin is also prescribed under the names of Amnesteem®, ClaravisTM or Sotret®.
Isotretinoin is a prescription-only medication, which is taken orally. It works by reducing the size of the skin’s sebaceous glands, as well as the amount of oil they produce. It also evens the process of sloughing off old skin cells, ultimately helping to prevent comedones from forming. It’s usually prescribed for severe acne, and then only after all other treatments have failed. This is because, although effective, isotretinoin is associated with very serious side effects.
Common side effects include bone pain, dry skin, fever, hair loss, headaches, sweating, itching, nausea, tiredness and vomiting. More serious (though rare) side effects caused by allergic reactions include rashes, hives, breathing problems, swelling of th mouth, voice changes, dizziness, hearing loss, heart attack, bleeding, vision changes and changes in menstrual flow. Keep in mind this list does not cover everything, so ask your doctor if you are experiencing any unusual reactions at all.
A special warning to women: DO NOT use isotretinoin if you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breast-feeding. Serious birth defects can occur in pregnant women who are using Isotretinoin. Increased risks of miscarriage and premature births have been reported. Because the risk is so severe and so serious, Isotretinoin can only be dispensed through a special program.