Accutane And Its Long Term Effects
Acne is a common skin disease in America. Statistics say that about 60 million Americans have active acne. About 20 million Americans have scars on their face that are caused by the many avatars of acne such as blackheads, whiteheads, nodular acne and cystic acne. Yet, 40% of Americans that have acne do not do anything about the problem.
Accutane (manufactured by Roche) is the brand name of one of the retinoid class of drugs that is used for the treatment of acne. Its principal ingredient is isotretinion, a naturally occurring derivative of Vitamin A. Before this medication was developed, administering antibiotics (like tetracycline and minocycline) was the most commonly used method to treat acne. Gradually, the bacteria in the acne developed resistance to these antibiotics and their efficiency diminished with time, especially while dealing with serious acne conditions.
In cases where antibiotics proved ineffective, doctors administered high doses of fat-soluble Vitamin A, which worked better than the antibiotics. But this type of treatment had many negative side effects and, hence, did not gain popularity.
In the year 1982, Roche released a powerful acne drug by the name Accutane, the principal ingredient of which was a derivative of Vitamin A (isotretinion). It worked better than fat-soluble Vitamin A, had fewer side effects, and was declared an instant success. It continues to be a popular drug even today. However, like any other drug, there are some short-term and some long-term side effects associated with the drug.
Typically, a person suffering from acne is initially administered with topical medicines such as adapalene and/or oral antibiotics. If these initial medications do not show the desired results, only then is isotretinion prescribed. This is because, firstly, it is more expensive compared to other medications, and, secondly, its short-term as well as long-term effects are more adverse.
Accutane is an FDA-approved drug that is not available without a doctor's prescription. It clears severe cystic acne in about 60% of cases when taken for 15 to 20 weeks.
- One of the most serious side effects of Accutane is on a fetus. Under no circumstances should a woman get pregnant while taking this treatment. Or if already pregnant, treatment with this drug must not be started.
- Dryness of lips, mouth, nasal vents, eyes and skin. These effects are not so serious and can be managed with some effort. For example, the dryness of lips and the nose can be relieved with lubricants. Sucking on sugarless hard candy or ice chips, chewing sugarless gum, drinking water, or using a saliva substitute can relieve the dryness of the mouth.
- One major issue associated with the long-term use of isotretinion is that the skin becomes vulnerable. The probability of scarring is high for any cosmetic procedure such as hair removal, laser treatment and other skin resurfacing procedures. People who are going in for a skin or hair treatment while on this drug need to inform about the same to their doctor.
- Long-term use of isotretinion has been found to be related to decreased bone mass and tenderness of bones.
- Temporary thinning of the scalp hair is another observed side effect.
- Muscle and joint pain has also been noted in a long-term study on the drug.
Some patients may also experience short-term side effects such as headaches, depression, hearing loss, ringing in the ears, stomach pain, changes in blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels, elevated liver enzymes, or a drop in the white blood cell count.
This acne treatment may also interfere or react with other medications and, therefore, you must always consult your doctor about drug interaction if you are taking this drug.
You will also need to make some adjustments in your lifestyle. Women must take care not to get pregnant, alcohol intake must be regulated, and the skin must be protected with an effective sunblock lotion every time you step out in the sun.
To sum up, this treatment in its oral form is an effective drug for treating acne and safe when taken under a physician's care. In fact, some patients may not experience any serious side effects. Even in spite of the risks, this remedy should be looked upon in a positive light.
Doesn't every drug have some kind of undesirable effects? Acne, if left untreated, has the potential to scar the face permanently and turn the acne-infected person into a socially unacceptable washout. So, if necessary, Accutane should be considered in order to get rid of acne, but always under medical supervision.
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