Isotretinoin, also well known as the brand name Accutane, is a prescription pill that treats acne. It is a medication that is regulated through a program called iPledge™, which has specific guidelines the provider and patient must follow. A course of treatment may last anywhere from five to six months and occasionally longer depending on clearance of acne. Isotretinoin is a popular option for many, as it has the potential in some patients to be a cure for their acne.
As a provider, I have heard many questions about isotretinoin. To help patients who may be seeking this treatment, I thought answering a few of the more common queries here may be helpful.
1. Does my acne have to be very severe to meet the qualifications for isotretinoin?
NO! If your acne is affecting your quality of life, even if it is not scarring or severe, you may meet the criteria for isotretinoin.
2. How does isotretinoin work?
It is the only acne treatment that targets all four causes of acne: Overgrowth of P. acnes, inflammation, disproportionate oil production, and blocked pores.
3. May I donate blood while taking isotretinoin?
NO! You cannot donate blood while taking the medication or up to 30 days after finishing the last dose.
4. May I have waxing of unwanted/excessive hair while taking isotretinoin?
NO! You should not have this treatment done while taking the medication.
5. What are the requirements while taking isotretinoin?
You must see your provider every 30 days while taking the prescription. Blood work and monthly pregnancy tests are required of women of child-bearing potential.
6. May I get pregnant while taking isotretinoin?
NO! Isotretinoin can cause severe birth defects, miscarriage, and even stillbirth.
7. What about depression with isotretinoin?
This is something dermatologists are still learning about. When your provider evaluates you each month, this is a question we will ask. We know severe acne can cause depression and mood changes, as acne is a very visible condition. In general, we have found patients actually experience both an improved mood and morale as their acne clears.
Isotretinoin is a very effective treatment option, especially when other medications have failed to be beneficial. If you think isotretinoin may be an option for you, we are happy to make you an appointment to discuss further.