Everything you should know about Accutane

Angel Kontra, Editor

We can all agree that acne is awful. It can be painful, unsightly, and confidence crushing. Unfortunately, as teenagers, breakouts are a common occurrence; between school and work and just life in general, our skin can get bear the brunt of it all.  

Even with tedious skin care regimens, the consumption of copious amounts of water, and other pharmaceutical or natural methods, stubborn acne is resilient. If this sounds like you, don’t worry, you’re not alone.  

Around this time last year, I hated looking at my face in the mirror. I was getting constant breakouts despite being as proactive as possible and was feeling utterly defeated. That was when I decided to take the step my dermatologists had been recommending for years: Accutane.  

Isotretinoin, more commonly known as Accutane, is used to treat “severe cystic acne (also known as nodular acne) that has not responded to any other treatment,” according to WebMD. Such treatments include topical creams containing benzoyl peroxide or clindamycin and medications taken by mouth like tetracycline or minocycline.  

Accutane is a retinoid, containing a form of vitamin A that produces unclogged pores and cell turnover. The medication works to decrease oil (sebum) production in the skin that leads to severe acne. 

Before beginning the medication, patients will consult with their dermatologists about both the length of the time they will take the medication and the side effects that patients may experience. As acne severity may vary, the length of time everyone is on the medication will vary. Due to the potency of the medication, the potential side effects must be understood in full detail. To ensure this happens, both males and females taking Accutane must register for a program called “iPledge.”  

iPledge requires registrations from those taking the medication, as well as pharmacies and doctors dispensing the medication. The program works to reduce the risk of pregnancy for patients during their time on the medication due to the harmful effects it can have on developing fetuses.  

Before both males and females can obtain their month pack of pills, the program requires them to answer questions regarding contraceptive and safe sex behavior. After the questions are completed, the pharmacy is alerted and may distribute the pills.  

Along with completing their iPledge questions, female patients only must have a routine monthly pregnancy test completed in the lab. After the results come back, it is determined whether they can continue taking the medication 

In addition to the birth defects that can result, patients may experience dry skin, chapped lips, nose bleeds, upset stomach, changes in night vision and more.  

Patients will meet with their dermatologist once a month to discuss any possible side effects they are experiencing, as well as the progress their skin is making. Along with a monthly meeting, patients may be required to have routine blood work completed to catch any internal problems.  

As scary is this all may sound, don’t be afraid; so long as monthly appointments are being honored and communication is honest, side effects are manageable and sometimes preventable altogether.  

In my personal experience, Accutane worked wonders: I no longer struggle with consistent, stubborn breakouts. Being a girl, it was a process to get on the medication. When I told my doctor that I decided to begin Accutane, it took an additional month for me to begin dosages due to routine pregnancy testing procedure. When my results came back clean, I was able to begin the first month of my six-month plan.  

The worst side effects I experienced were extremely dry skin on my hands, face, and lips; my lab work varied between blood tests and urine samples, and no severe problems ever occurred for me. 

For anyone out there who has been struggling with acne, I highly recommend asking your dermatologist about Accutane. The tedious process is only temporary, and the results are long-lasting clear skin. 

Most importantly, remember acne doesn’t last forever and it doesn’t make you any less beautiful. It’s okay to want to get rid of it, but it isn’t okay to let it destroy your certainty in yourself and who you are as a person. With whatever decision you make, I wish you the best of luck.  

More information and answers for further inquiries can be found on webmd.com and ipledgeprogram.com.