Millions of people of all ages, sex and ethnicities suffer from skin problems such as eczema, acne, dermatitis, and psoriasis. Up to 85% of Australians will suffer from acne during their lifetime.
Acne prone skin can range in severity and therefore the treatment options span from mild to prescription grade medication. Acne can have a severe impact on self-esteem and wellbeing to sufferers, and many people struggle to find an effective treatment.
Worryingly, many people resort to reaching for the drug accutane before properly trying gentler alternatives that may have even better results for their skin long term.
Accutane works by targeting the skins oil glands, shrinking them down to reduce the production of pimples, and targeting bacteria in hair follicles that lead to breakouts. Accutane however, often hailed as a miracle drug, comes with harsh side effects & should be the very last resort people turn to in treating their severe acne.
What is Accutane?
Accutane is the brand name for isotretinoin capsules. It’s a prescribed drug usually used to treat severe cystic acne that has not responded to other treatments.
It is a vitamin A derivative (retinoid). Retinoids work by reducing the amount of the oily substance (i.e. sebum) made by glands in your skin, reducing bacteria and inflammation and opening clogged pores.
For many people, a single course of therapy has been shown to result in the remission of their acne. If a second course of therapy is needed, it will be prescribed for use at least eight weeks after completion of the first course, since experience has shown that patients may continue to improve while off drug.
The internet is filled with blogs and vlogs of people claiming it is a miracle medication and others who describe it as having the worst side effects of any medication they’ve ever taken. According to the Therapeutic Goods Administration, it has been linked to several deaths and suicide attempts in Australia and there are several lawsuits over the medication in the US.
As with all oral medication, there'll be some people who really need to avoid it. Of course, your doctor will talk to you about this, but Accutane is off-limits to anyone pregnant, breast-feeding or with impaired liver function, as well as caution needing to be exercised for anyone with diabetes, depression or impaired kidney function.
For women, even if you're not trying for a baby, you need to think about the possibility that you could become pregnant when you start taking Accutane. Accutane can cause serious harm to a developing foetus.
Potential mild side effects
- dryness of the lips, mouth, nose and skin
- fragile skin
- change in colour of the skin
- peeling palms of the hands and soles of the feet
- itchy skin rash
- an increased susceptibility to sunburn
- flaring of acne, usually at the start of treatment
- changes to the nails
- eye problems such as dry, sore, swollen or itchy eyes, discharge or trouble seeing at night
- sexual dysfunction including impaired sexual function in males, decreased libido
- tenderness or stiffness in your bones, joints or muscles
- hair loss (sometimes occurs and is usually temporary but in rare cases has persisted)
- excessive hairiness
Potential severe side effects
- persistent headache
- blurred vision or visual disturbances
- changes in your hearing or ringing in your ears
- severe upper stomach pain
- unexpected muscle pain, tenderness or weakness
- blood in stools or severe diarrhea
- severe bruising
- sudden red, often itchy spots, similar to the rash of measles starting on the face, hands or feet.
- painful red areas, that change to large blisters and end with peeling of layers of skin, that may occur on lips, mouth, eyes, nose and genitals. Those affected may have fever and chills, aching muscles and generally feel unwell.
- feeling depressed or suicidal thoughts.
Extra things you need to be careful of while taking Accutane
- Be careful driving or operating machinery until you know how Accutane affects you. Potential altered night vision and other visual disturbances may occur when taking Accutane. Make sure you know how you react to Accutane before you drive a car, operate machinery or do anything else that may be dangerous if your vision is affected.
- Wearing contact lenses during treatment with Accutane may cause discomfort. Accutane may cause dry eyes. An eye lubricant or artificial tears, available from your pharmacist, should relieve this problem. Otherwise, you may temporarily need to wear your lenses for shorter periods or wear glasses instead.
- Avoid excessive sun exposure and apply sunscreen whilst taking Accutane. Your skin may be more prone to sunburn while on Accutane.
- Avoid waxing and dermabrasion whilst taking Accutane and for 5 to 6 months after stopping treatment. Your skin may be more sensitive while on Accutane. Waxing may cause dermatitis and dermabrasion may cause scarring during and for several months after Accutane treatment.
- Avoid using facial peels, electrolysis and some hair treatments.
- Your skin and hair may be more delicate during treatment and for a while after Accutane treatment.
Side effects aside, acne treatment with Accutane will usually take between 4 to 8 months. In the first few weeks of treatment your acne may get a little worse before it gets better.
*Accutane cannot improve scars or pitting that were present before treatment started.
The AMPERNA® Probiotic Skincare Approach
AMPERNA® products can help acne through the power of probiotics. Probiotics work in a similar way to antibiotics in the treatment of acne, with the advantage of not killing off the “good bacteria”. When applied directly to the skin they create a “bacterial interference" and their antimicrobial properties mean they can kill bad bacteria that is responsible for triggering inflammation. The hero ingredient in the AMPERNA® range is the active probiotic complex, Lactococcus ferment lysate. This probiotic complex helps support the skin barrier; helping to protect you from aggressions such as environmental pollutants, helps keep your immune system in check and helps reduce inflammation. It acts as a protective layer on the skin, helps boost healthy looking skin and helps calm & soothe skin.
AMPERNA® has been internationally recognized by the skincare industry for the effectiveness of the products.
10 things to know about the acne treatment and it's side effects (cosmopolitan.com)