Acne Treatments: Isotretinoin

Isotretinoin is a prescription medication used to treat moderate to severe acne. It works by shrinking the oil glands in the skin. In turn, the amount of oil that clogs the pores and creates acne is reduced. Is Isotretinoin right for you?
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split screen of the face of a Caucasian female before and after acne treatments

Frustration, embarrassment, and low self-esteem are just a few of the psychological effects felt by anyone who has dealt with acne. According to the AAD (American Academy of Dermatology), acne is the most common skin condition treated by medical professionals. 

Although acne affects at least 90% of the world’s population, each individual’s experience is unique and deeply personal. Acne can leave emotional and psychological scars that last longer and go deeper than the acne itself. A dermatologist can help minimize the long-term effects of acne.

Different Types of Acne

There are various types of acne. No, we’re not talking about big zits and little zits. There are actually different acne types, making it paramount that a licensed dermatologist diagnoses your acne to ensure proper treatment. 

Acne Vulgaris, the most common type of acne, is best known simply as “ance.” It forms inflamed elevations (pimples, cysts, nodules, etc.), comedones (blackheads and whiteheads), and can leave scars on the skin. Genetic factors play a leading role in the hormonal changes that cause this type of acne.

Unfortunately, your dermatologist can’t do much about the level of hormones your body produces, but they can help manage the acne’s severity and reduce the potential for scarring. 

How Isotretinoin is Used to Treat Severe Acne

You’ve probably done some research on acne, and your research has led to many hard-to-understand words. We’ll leave the explanation of those terms up to Miriam-Webster. Let’s talk simply. 

Isotretinoin (\ ˌī-sō-ˈtre-tə-ˌnȯin\) is the generic name for brands such as Accutane and Claravis. It works by shrinking the oil glands in the skin. In turn, the amount of oil that clogs the pores and creates acne is reduced. 

Isotretinoin is an oral prescription medication frequently used to help manage and treat severe acne. A majority of people will only need one round of treatment; very few may need a second course. It can take up to one month to see the effects of treatment.

Benefits of Isotretinoin for Severe Acne

Topical medications used to treat severe acne are beneficial, but the effect is usually temporary. One problem with treating nodular acne with any currently available drug (other than Isotretinoin) is that a new nodule can form on the former nodule site, leading to increased pain and scarring. 

According to an article in 2018 in the British Journal of Dermatology, Isotretinoin therapy reduced acne lesion counts by a greater amount than other treatments (such as oral antibiotics). Furthermore, the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology (AOCD) notes that acne’s full clearing usually occurs within 4-5 months of using this drug.

Why Do I Need to be Under a Dermatologist’s Supervision During Treatment with Isotretinoin?

Run far, far away from any medical professional that doesn’t keep their patients under close supervision during Isotretinoin treatment. There are potential side effects to this medication that the medical prescriber needs to be monitoring during your treatment. 

You cannot use this medication if you are pregnant or could become pregnant. Isotretinoin is strongly-linked to congenital disabilities such as cleft palate. Therefore, your dermatologist will likely require you to use some form of birth control and register with iPledge(Guys, this is you too). 

Be sure to discuss your medical history and any health problems you have with your dermatologist.

Acne Vulgaris, simply known by most of us as “acne,” while very common and not permanent, can impact individuals psychologically and emotionally. It is a skin condition that warrants the diagnosis and aid of a dermatologist. If you have noticed an adverse change in your self-esteem and outlook on life due to acne, do not merely wait and do nothing. Changing the trajectory of your future could be as simple as a visit with your dermatologist.