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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Whole Story: Accutane

 Some rights reserved by perry_marco

So you have acne. Your acne is very bad and you’re thinking only Accutane will cure it.

You may want to think a little harder about this decision. Accutane is very effective for treating acne, but also very powerful and potentially dangerous. In this blog post, I’ll outline some of the effective uses for the drug, as well as when you should take it – and if you should take it.

1.    See a dermatologist.

Acne is a medical problem. If you have a virus, you would go see a doctor, and acne is not different. If you have tried some of the over-the-counter washes and creams, it may be time to check out medical-grade treatments. But only a licensed dermatologist can provide you with the proper skin care you need to overcome your acne.

2.    Work with your dermatologist to evaluate your acne.

Although approximately 80 percent of teens and pre-teens have acne, most cases are not severe enough to warrant major treatment. Usually, some regimen of topical creams, medications and/or washes will do the trick. Your dermatologist can recommend which regimen will work best for you, and can make changes as needed.

3.    Exhaust all possible avenues.

There are hundreds of medical treatment options available to treat acne, so I would never recommend making Accutane your first choice. If you can use something gentler, milder or safer – do. Accutane really should be a last resort for particularly tough or persistent cases of acne.

4.    Discuss the pros and cons of Accutane.

Accutane works by reducing oil production in the body’s glands. As clogged pores are the primary reason for breakouts, Accutane is effective in reducing or eliminating acne for most people.

Although it can be very effective, Accutane can also be dangerous if not taken correctly or if precautions are not taken. Risks include:
  • Serious birth defects if taken while pregnant
  • Depression or other psychological side effects
  • Liver problems related to fatty buildup

While taking Accutane, patients should not give blood, drink multiple alcoholic drinks at one time, have laser procedures or wax regularly.

5.    Educate yourself on the iPLEDGE program.

As a result of so many serious risks associated with Accutane, the drug is now only available through the iPLEDGE program. The program is designed to prevent Accutane-related birth defects. The program requires:
  • Two forms of effective birth control (acceptable forms are spelled out by the program)
  • For women - A negative pregnancy test 30 days prior to starting medication and every month prior to filling the prescription
  • Monthly questionnaires to remind patients of the rules and risks associated with Accutane

6.    Take precautions.

Although Accutane-related birth defects are one of the biggest risks associated with the drug, it is important to consider others.
  • Accutane patients should not drink, as the drug itself can cause fatty buildup in the liver. It can also replicate the effects of long-term drinking, like cirrhosis of the liver. Drinking multiple alcoholic drinks at once while taking Accutane can exacerbate potential liver problems.
  • Patients will be required to undergo regular blood tests prior to fulfilling their prescriptions each month. This ensures (for women) that there is no pregnancy and for all patients that the liver is functioning normally.
  • Family members and friends should watch Accutane patients for signs of depression and other psychological side effects. While these side effects rarely last beyond the final pill, they should be monitored during the Accutane regimen.
  • Patients should not wax, have laser treatments or exfoliate heavily during their Accutane regimen. Because the drug dries out the skin, it is more susceptible to ripping or tearing, and waxing may leave permanent scarring. 

7.    Prepare to prevent future breakouts.

Accutane works very well for many people who use it correctly. Although it is risky, it is one of the most effective acne drugs on the market. Due to its risks, most patients should not take Accutane for longer than six months at a time.

Although this is plenty of treatment time for many patients, it may not be the final cure for everyone. Acne is not just a teenage problem, and it is important to maintain a facial cleansing regimen and to keep your dermatologist updated on the state of your skin.

If you have questions about whether Accutane is right for you, make an appointment with a dermatologist. Have general questions I didn’t address in this post? Leave them in the comments and I’ll answer them there.              


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