Friday, October 3, 2014

Accutane—side effects

What are the internal and external side effects of taking Accutane? 

The following information is used with permission and comes from two different sources in an attempt to give you a well-rounded view of the effects Accutane may have on your body. Although some of the information will repeat, I think this is a good thing because the more you understand about the potential risks and side effects, the more informed your decision will be.

All of the side effects listed indicate the seriousness that must be taken when considering Accutane. Remember, a quick-fix mentality focuses on now rather than looking ahead to potential consequences. In Accutane—easing the side effects (see link below), I discuss ways you can help ease the pain and annoyance of some of these effects. Know that you will experience some and maybe all of the side effects in varying degrees depending on your body’s constitution, so be prepared and hope for the best.

The following is taken from Physiology of the Skin II by Peter T. Pugliese, M.D. If you are interested in a more technical explanation about skin and its function, you may want to read this book. It is for “professionals,” but I know many of you who aren’t in this profession like to read as much as possible about skin care.

Side effects of isotretinoin may be mild or severe. Everyone on this drug will expect to have some side effects. Major side effects are:
  1. Cheilitis*, 90% of patients
  2. Chapped, flaky skin, 90% of patients
  3. Dry nose and eyes, 80% of patients
  4. Loss of hair, 10% of patients
  5. Painful joints and painful muscles, 15% of patients
  6. Excessive peeling of the palms and soles, 10% of patients
  7. Elevation of triglycerides in the blood, 25% of patients
  8. Abnormal liver function tests, especially the transaminase enzymes, 15% of patients 
*Cheilitis is inflammation of the lips, usually concentrating around the corners of the mouth. This can produce anything from redness and irritation to severe cracking and scaliness.

The following is taken from The Pill Book published by Bantam Books:

Side effects [with Accutane use] increase with dosage.

Most common: Dry, chapped, or inflamed
lips; dry mouth; dry nose; nosebleeds; eye irritation; conjunctivitis (pinkeye); dry or flaky skin; rash; itching; peeling skin on the face, palms, or soles; unusual sensitivity to the sun; temporary skin discoloration; brittle nails; inflammation of the nailbed or bone under toes or fingernails; temporary hair thinning; nausea; vomiting; abdominal pain; tiredness; lethargy; sleeplessness; headache; tingling in the hands or feet; dizziness; protein, blood, or white blood cells in the urine; urinary difficulties; blurred vision; bone and joint aches or pains; and muscle pain or stiffness. Isotretinoin causes extreme elevations of blood-triglyceride levels and milder elevations of other blood-fat levels including cholesterol. It also can raise bloodsugar or uric acid levels and can increase liver-function-test values.

Less common: Wound crusting caused by an exaggerated healing response stimulated by the drug, hair problems other than thinning, appetite loss, upset stomach or intestinal discomfort, severe bowel inflammation, stomach or intestinal bleeding, weight loss, visual disturbances, contact lens intolerance, pseudotumor cerebri*, mild bleeding or easy bruising, fluid retention, and lung or respiratory system infection. Several people taking isotretinoin have developed widespread herpes simplex infections.
*Pseudotumor cerebri is one of the more dangerous (and fairly uncommon) side effects of taking Accutane. The symptoms are severe headaches followed by nausea and vomiting along with visual disturbances, which indicates an increased and intense pressure on the brain.

As you can see, the side effects are many. This is a very powerful drug—make no mistake about it! Please read up on this serious drug before you consider taking it.

There are many articles about Accutane on this blog. Here are just a few: