What Are the Risks and Benefits from Accutane?

I've had mild acne since my teens and am now 30. I've been on different prescription oral medicines for the last 10 years, currently on Solodyn.

I'm not happy with the results, my doc suggested I try Accutane but I'm very nervous about this. Some people have had good reviews and others bad. I find the physical side affects scary. Any advice?

Doctor Answers 1


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The effect we doctors fear the most in women of child-bearing age is pregnancy while on accutane, as the potential birth defects can be devastating. I require my patients of child-bearing potential to be on oral contraception plus condoms. Other accutane side effects are generally dose-related and for the most part occur only while on the medication. You can expect to have dry lips (I recommend aquaphor ointment for this).

Other uncommon effects include mood swings (I am extremely cautious with patients who have a family history of depression or other psychiatric illness), muscle aches, visual changes, headache, joint pain, liver and cholesterol lab abnormalities (I recommend abstaining from alcohol while on accutane), hair loss, dry skin rashes. Extraordinarily rare effects include seizures and inflammatory bowel disease. Procedures (including waxing) that strip the superficial layers of skin off should be avoided while on and for 6 months after discontinuation of accutane because of an increased risk of scarring.

I hope I have not frightened you too much because in reality, the vast majority of people on accutane only have dry lips - that's it!

Good luck.

San Diego Dermatologist

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.