From Dry Skin to Depression: The Truth about Taking Roaccutane for Acne

Due to its potency, Roaccutane is only prescribed in severe cases such as nodular or conglobate acne and where patients have not responded to other treatments, usually antibiotics and topical creams. The list of potential risks of taking Isotretinoin can be daunting but according to the NHS website, only 1 in 1,000 patients suffer from serious side effects. However, 1 in 10 people experience common side effects including dry skin, aches, pains and headaches. 

Though serious side effects are rare, it’s important to be aware of them if you’re considering taking Roaccutane. The list of side effects include:

Common side effects

  • skin becoming more sensitive to sunlight
  • dry eyes
  • dry throat
  • dry nose and nosebleeds
  • headaches and general aches and pains

Serious side effects

  • anxiety, aggression and violence, changes in mood, or suicidal thoughts 
  • severe pain in your stomach with or without diarrhoea, feeling or being sick (nausea or vomiting) – these can be signs of a serious problem called pancreatitis 
  • bloody diarrhoea – this may be a sign of gastrointestinal bleeding
  • a serious skin rash that peels or has blisters – the skin rash may come with eye infections, ulcers, a fever, and headaches
  • difficulty moving your arms or legs, and painful, swollen or bruised areas of the body, or dark pee – these can be signs of muscle weakness
  • yellow skin or the whites of your eyes turn yellow, difficulty peeing, or feeling very tired – these are signs of liver or kidney problems
  • a bad headache that doesn’t go away and makes you feel sick or be sick
  • sudden changes in eyesight, including not seeing as well at night

Understandably, getting your hands on the drug isn’t an easy process. In the UK, it can only be prescribed and supervised under the care of a consultant dermatologist and requires a psychological assessment, blood tests and regular pregnancy tests as it can cause serious harm to an unborn baby.

With so much to take into consideration, we spoke with Dermatologist and Head of Medical at  Dr Jason Thomson to discuss the pros and cons of this so-called miracle worker, from risks to success rates and the skincare you need to have on standby… 

What exactly is Roaccutane and why is it a controversial treatment?

Roaccutane is the brand name for an oral (taken by mouth) prescription medication called isotretinoin. It belongs to a family of drugs called retinoids which means they are all related to vitamin A. It is highly effective in treating acne and has been used by dermatologists for decades, usually to treat the more severe forms of acne. 

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