Accutane: An Acne Cure to Be Used Carefully
Sometimes stubborn cases of acne do not respond to relatively mild treatment strategies such as specialized facial cleansers, prescription topical creams, and antibiotics. In such cases, if the life of the patient is adversely effected by concerns over appearance, pain from outbreaks, and potential permanent scarring, then more radical pharmaceutical approaches may be appropriate if handled with extreme caution.
Accutane is the brand name for a drug called isotretinoin. It can be very effective in the treatment of serious acne, but it also has the risk of serious side effects. If you are a parent, and your child's dermatologist is telling you that Accutane is the next step in a series of treatments that haven't worked, think very carefully before you try it. Consider alternative approaches offered by non-traditional practitioners such as naturopaths. They can offer a regimen of high doses of vitamins, herbs, gentle topical treatments and changes in diets that can eliminate acne for some without harmful side effects. Such treatments may not be very expensive to try, and certainly worth a try if it means sparing your child the risks associated with accutane.
The most serious risk of Accutane is its potential to cause major birth defects if the patient becomes pregnant while using the drug. Because of this, pregnancy testing before and during the course of treatment is required and the patient must also use birth control pills during the treatment. For female patients and their families, these are issues which must be discussed thoroughly before treatment with Accutane is chosen.
Other side effects can include dry and itchy skin, chapped lips, muscle and joint pain, irritated eyelids, decreased night vision, nosebleeds, skin rashes, intestinal discomfort, urinary symptoms, headaches, and increased susceptibility to sunburn. Some studies have linked Accutane use to depression and suicidal ideation, althought it is difficult to assign a cause and effect relationship, since patients with serious acne may have many other factors which cause depression, including lowered self-esteem due to the disfiguring appearance of acne.
Another potential side effect of Accutane is liver damage. If you take Accutane, you have to get regular blood tests to monitor the level of fat in your blood to make sure your liver isn't failing.
Many people who take Accutane experience an effective cure of their acne, so it is a viable option to consider after all other courses of treatment fail. However, Accutane is not effective for everyone. In some cases, the immediate results are disappointing, and in others, the short-term benefit is significant, but the acne returns after several months or years. So, the decision to use Accutane must be made carefully, balancing all other treatment options and potential risks in consultation with your dermatologist.
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