What is isotretinoin?

Isotretinoin is a synthetic, biologically active Vitamin A derivative. It is an oral agent used in the treatment of severe acne that is unresponsive to other oral therapies as antibiotics. Treatment typically lasts anywhere from 4-6 months depending on your weight. The medication is only discontinued once a weight-based cumulative dose if reached.

How does it work?

Isotretinoin is effective in the treatment of acne as it reduces inflammation, normalized the skin growth, and reduces the size and activity of the oil glands in the skin. Typically patients are started on a lower dose the first month to monitor tolerability and minimize the risk of an acne flare. The dose is then increased in subsequent months as tolerated.

What are the side effects?

The most common side effects experienced by all patients while on isotretinoin are dryness of the skin and lips. While on isotretinoin, it is recommended that all topical and oral acne treatments are discontinued. You should wash your face with gentle cream cleansers (i.e. Cetaphil, Cerave) and moisturize your face with a non-comedogenic facial cream. Frequent application of Aquaphor ointment or Vaseline for the lips can help with dryness.

Although tolerated well by a majority of patients, isotretinoin has been linked with many possible side effects. That is why you must adhere to monthly visits with your physician, receive monthly bloodwork, and register with iPledge. Below are other side effects that may occur while on the medication:

  • Elevation in cholesterol or triglycerides
  • Elevation in liver enzymes
  • Muscle aches
  • Decrease in blood counts

What is iPledge?

iPledge is a monitoring agency that keeps track of who is on isotretinoin