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Accutane Side Effects

What You Need to Know About Isotretinoin (Accutane) Side Effects


Updated June 02, 2014

Wondering about Accutane side effects? Isotretinoin, more popularly known as Accutane, is an oral medication used to treat severe nodulocystic acne. It is the closest thing we have to an acne "cure."

But isotretinoin does come with a host of possible side effects. Before starting isotretinoin treatment, be absolutely certain you understand these side effects.

Dryness of the Skin and Mucus Membranes

Because isotretinoin shrinks the sebaceous glands, nearly everyone who takes it will experience dry skin to some degree. Your skin may flake or peel, your lips may get chapped, and your eyes and inside the nose might feel dry.

To combat dry skin, you will need to use a moisturizer daily. Your favorite light lotion may not be moisturizing enough during your isotretinoin treatment. Try a more emollient cream. As long as it is labeled noncomedogenic, you shouldn't have to worry about it clogging your pores. For lips and the skin inside the nose, try applying a salve like petroleum jelly.

Miscarriage and Severe Birth Defects

Probably the most widely known side effect of Accutane treatment is the effect it has on a developing fetus. Accutane must never be used while pregnant. Even one dose of the drug while pregnant can cause severe birth defects.

Women of childbearing potential must submit to regular pregnancy tests are required to use two forms of birth control, both before, during, and for one month after treatment.

There are also limitations on how and when you fill your Accutane prescription. Although this can be an inconvenience, it helps ensure the safety of unborn children.

Depression and Suicide

If birth defects are the most well known side effect, depression and suicide are the most publicized. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns Accutane may cause depression, psychosis, thoughts of suicide, and suicide.

Understand that these side effects are very rare. Still, you should tell your doctor about any changes in your mood or behavior. Are you feeling irritable, sad, or having trouble concentrating? Are you seeing or hearing things that aren't real? Do you have thoughts of hurting yourself? Please let your doctor know right away. Don't wait.


During isotretinoin treatment is not the time to work on your tan! Isotretinoin can cause your skin to become more sensitive to the sun, or photosensitivity. You'll be more susceptible to sun burn and sun damage.

While using this drug, you should wear a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15, every day, even if you don't typically burn. You'll also want to stay out of tanning beds and booths.

Besides, tanning isn't good for your skin. Try a self-tanner instead. You'll get that beach-bronzed look without damaging your skin.

High Blood Triglycerides

Before and during your isotretinoin treatment, your doctor will check your blood triglyceride levels. Triglycerides, which are a type of fat in your blood, can be effected by certain medications including isotretinoin.

High blood trigylcerides can lead to other health problems, like heart disease. Your doctor will monitor your blood triglycerides during the course of your treatment, to make sure they stay within safe levels.

Other Side Effects

Accutane may also cause:

  • thinning hair
  • decreased night vision
  • fatigue
  • nausea and vomiting
  • headaches
  • bone and joint pain
  • diarrhea or rectal bleeding
  • severe chest or abdominal pain
  • difficult or painful swallowing

The numerous possible side effects of Accutane treatment can scare off even the most steadfast. It's true, Accutane is not the right treatment for everyone. But for those who are struggling with severe acne, Accutane can be a wonder drug. Talk with your doctor, and together you can decide if Accutane treatment is the right treatment for you.

  • More About Accutane (Isotretinoin)


"Isotretinoin." Medline Plus. 01 Aug 2007. NIH. Accessed 26 May 2007.

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  3. Acne
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  6. Isotretinoin (Accutane)
  7. What Are Accutane Acne Treatment Side Effects?

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