Accutane is a powerful drug for treating severe nodular acne - those large, oftentimes painful acne lumps that scar the skin. Accutane is the brand name of isotretinoin, which is a potent derivative of vitamin A known as a retinoid. Retinoids are naturally present in humans and are essential for maintaining healthy mucous membranes.
Accutane limits the production of the substances which allow pimples to form, shrinking the size of the sebum-secreting sebaceous glands and reducing the buildup of these offending oils.
What It's Good For
Accutane treats nodular acne - inflamed, painful pus-filled lumps. Nodular acne is not only physically and emotionally taxing, it is often unresponsive to commonly used topical acne medications like benzoyl peroxide or clindamycin, and oral drugs like tetracycline or minocycline.
Who it works for: Accutane is not for everyone. Patients must be mentally stable and have no intention whatsoever of becoming pregnant for at least one month after the end of treatment. Accutane may also weaken bones, so patients should be healthy, and have no known bone deficiencies.
Recommended age range: Accutane cannot be taken before the age of 12. Parental consent is required to obtain a prescription for the drug for minors. Younger patients may be mentally unfit to withstand the emotional changes brought on by Accutane.
Accutane may weaken bones and inhibit bone growth, cause severe back pain, and increase the likelihood of breaking an arm (or other body part, for that matter) in prepubescents. For this reason, Accutane is also not recommended for elderly patients.
When will I see results?: You should begin to notice improvements after one to two months, but your acne may actually get worse before it responds.
How long it lasts: Acne is not a curable condition, but approximately 50 percent of patients who take Accutane go into remission at the end of treatment - that is, their acne clears up. If a second treatment regiment is necessary, wait two months from your last pill before starting over.
Key benefits of Accutane: Accutane is a highly effective drug when used properly. It has been known to put an end to acne breakouts more than 50 percent of the time.
Licensed uses: Accutane was approved by the FDA in 1982 for the treatment of severe, persistent acne.