What You Need to Know About Accutane

February 2023

What is Accutane (or Isotretinoin)?

Isotretinoin is a medication used to treat severe cases of acne, in most cases cystic or stubborn acne that has not responded to other well-known acne treatments.

This medication works by targeting the sebaceous gland itself, where it works to slow the production of sebum (the oil secreted by these glands) and to make it less sticky, reducing the chances of clogged pores and acne.

Dr. Gregory Delost, practicing at the Optima Dermatology facility in Mentor, Ohio, and catering to the Greater Cleveland area, offers comprehensive insights into the transformative potential of Isotretinoin for patients enduring the challenges of severe acne.

Who is a Candidate for Isotretinoin Therapy?

Patients with severe nodulocystic acne or even mild or moderate acne that hasn’t responded to conventional treatments are excellent candidates for isotretinoin. The bottom line is that any patient with acne scarring potential should be considered. 

How Does Isotretinoin Work to Stop Acne?

The major factors that cause acne involve the skin not being properly shed, increased sebum (oil) production, and bacteria feeding on the oil to cause inflammation. 

Isotretinoin targets all three causes by shutting down the sebaceous glands and the bacteria which depend on the oil to cause inflammation. The medication also helps normalize proper skin shedding, which cuts down on comedones (blackheads and whiteheads) formation.

What Side Effects Should I Expect When Starting Isotretinoin?

Dry lips and dry mucous membranes (eyes, lips, nose). Luckily, these pesky side effects are temporary, and we have ways to control them through the treatment course. 

Additionally, we can see elevations in blood lipids, such as triglycerides, which are routinely monitored during treatment. The elevations are temporary and resolve at the end of the treatment course. Far less common side effects include muscle aches after strenuous exercise and headaches.

 How Long is a Patient Typically on Accutane?

Every patient is different, but the average patient will take 20-24 weeks to reach the treatment goal. Sometimes, we can get there quicker if the patient is able to tolerate the dryness from higher daily doses.

Would you prescribe isotretinoin to your own family members? 

Yes. In fact, I have personally taken the medication. As a teenager, I struggled with acne and found success with isotretinoin after trying and failing every other treatment option out there. 

Seeing first-hand how skin disease can have such a profound psychosocial impact on the quality of life, especially on a teenager, and how much my confidence improved with clear skin, it motivated me to become a dermatologist and do the same for others.

If you suffer from acne, our board-certified dermatologists are here to help. Schedule an appointment to learn more about different treatment options, including isotretinoin.