If you’re struggling with severe, treatment-resistant acne, it may be time to give Accutane a try. But, you may be wondering, how long does Accutane take to work? According to Dr. Cuong Le of U.S. Dermatology Partners in Centreville, Virginia, “When patients are struggling with severe acne, they don’t want to hear that there’s no immediate cure for their painful pimples. It can be frustrating for them to hear that Accutane treatment can take time to become effective. However, for patients who commit to the treatment and take the medication as directed, significant improvement is possible.” In this blog, Dr. Le will review the answers to common questions about Accutane, including how long the treatment takes to be effective.
What Is Accutane?
Accutane is actually an obsolete brand name for an acne medication with the active ingredient, isotretinoin. Today, when you receive your Accutane prescription, it may be listed as isotretinoin or a number of other brand names, including: Asorica®, Claravis®, Sotret®, Amnesteem®, Myorisan®, and Zenatane®. Accutane was developed to address severe acne, and it delivers exceptional results. However, there are many serious side effects if Accutane is not administered correctly. For this reason, the medication needs to be prescribed by a dermatologist who will monitor the effects throughout the course of treatment.
When Is Accutane Recommended?
Accutane treatment is recommended for people who are struggling with moderate to severe acne that has not been responsive to other treatment options. In many cases, patients achieve clear skin after just one round of Accutane. The majority of patients will maintain this clarity forever with few experiencing some mild breakouts or a few pimples here and there. A minority of patients will continue to have severe acne flare-ups after the treatment and may need another round of isotretinoin.
According to Dr. Le, “Because Accutane can have side effects, it’s extremely important that patients only take this treatment under the direct supervision of their dermatologist. Before Accutane is prescribed, your dermatologist will take a blood sample, and you will receive periodic blood work throughout the treatment process to ensure you are safe to continue treatment.”
Accutane is not recommended for:
- Pregnant or nursing mothers (because of the potentially adverse effects and high risk of birth defects in babies and increased risk for premature birth, it’s recommended that women avoid becoming pregnant for at least one month after stopping treatment)
- Pre-pubescent children under the age of 12
- Those who are allergic to isotretinoin or soya
- Those who have been diagnosed with fructose intolerance, a genetic condition that can be triggered by sorbitol in isotretinoin capsules
- People who have high levels of triglycerides or fats in the blood
- Those who have abnormally high levels of vitamin A
- Patients who have diabetes may use Accutane treatment, but it requires extra monitoring by their dermatologist
- Individuals who are taking contraindicated medications may need to change or pause their use of these medicines while taking Accutane, including vitamin A supplements, tetracycline antibiotics, and other acne treatments.
How Does Accutane Work?
Accutane is an effective medication used to treat the most severe forms of acne like cystic or nodular acne. Because the medication can have strong side effects, patients must follow the specific treatment directions provided by their dermatologist. In most cases, patients will first be given a very low dose, starting around .5 milligrams for each kilogram of weight. The isotretinoin medication may be split into two separate doses. For best results, you should take the Accutane capsule at the same time every day with a full glass of water immediately following a meal or snack high in fat content. This ensures the medication is absorbed well and works properly.
If you miss a dose, you should never take an extra pill to make up for the one you missed. Instead, follow the directions below:
- For a single dose missed and then remembered on the same day – go ahead and take the medication later in the day.
- For a single dose missed and then remembered the next day – skip the dose and continue your dose at the usual time.
- For a dual dose missed and remembered on the same day – take the medication as soon as you remember unless you’re within two hours before your next dose.
- For a dual dose missed and then remembered within two hours of the next dose – skip the missed dose and take your next pill at the regular time.
If you struggle to take your isotretinoin medication at the same time and often miss or forget doses, it may be beneficial to set an alarm, place your pills somewhere more obvious, and take other steps to minimize your risk of forgetting doses.
How Long Does It Take for Accutane to Be Effective?
Dr. Le says, “This is, by far, the question I hear most often about Accutane treatment. Each person’s response to isotretinoin treatment is different, but most people begin to see the desired results within 2-3 months after starting to take the medication. The good news is that the effects are long-lasting, and most people maintain skin clarity for months, years, or permanently after one round of Accutane treatment.”
What Are the Side Effects of Accutane?
According to Dr. Le, “Almost all patients have some Accutane side effects after starting treatment, but there are steps you can take to address these concerns and maintain healthy skin throughout the isotretinoin treatment process.”
It’s important to let your dermatologist know during follow-up visits about any symptoms you experience during Accutane treatment. Some of the most common mild to moderate side effects as well as the recommended at-home care tips for each are listed below:
- Dry skin and lips – Use moisturizers and lip balms regularly to keep skin hydrated.
- Photosensitivity – This can lead to redness, rashes, or sunburning more easily. To protect the skin, minimize sun exposure during treatment and wear sunscreen every day.
- Dry eyes – Red, itchy, or dry eyes are fairly common. Use over-the-counter or prescription eye drops to maintain moisture and alleviate itchiness.
- Dryness of the sinuses (nose, throat, nasal passage) – Chew gum to stimulate saliva production, drink plenty of water, apply petrolatum (Vaseline) to the nose to avoid chapping and to protect the skin.
- Head and body aches – Take over-the-counter pain medications to alleviate discomfort. Continue light to moderate exercise routines but avoid more intense workouts that could lead to further discomfort.
In addition to these common mild to moderate side effects, some patients experience more serious symptoms while taking Accutane that require immediate intervention by a dermatologist, including:
- Changes in mood – Depression, anxiety, aggression, suicidal ideation, and other mental health concerns.
- Stomach issues – Nausea, diarrhea, pain, vomiting, and other signs of pancreatitis.
- Rashes – Severe rashes, hives, blisters, peeling skin, or other signs of allergic reaction.
- Eye infections – Inflammation, redness, pain, or changes in eyesight.
- Headache – Severe headache that doesn’t respond to over-the-counter pain relievers.
- Kidney or liver problems – Signs include difficulty urinating, exhaustion, yellowness of skin or the whites of the eyes.
- Muscle weakness – Can feel tired, painful, swollen, bruised, or just difficult to move.
Ready to Discuss Treatment with Accutane?
If you’re struggling with moderate to severe, persistent acne, it’s time to talk to a dermatologist about Accutane. When you’re ready to explore your treatment options, get in touch with the knowledgeable dermatologists at U.S. Dermatology Partners, using our simple online request form. Once we receive your request form, one of our team members will be in touch to finalize the details of your Accutane consultation.
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