|Type of medicine||An oral retinoid|
|Used for||Severe forms of acne|
|Available as||Capsules and tablets|
Isotretinoin belongs to a group of medicines known as retinoids and is a substance related to vitamin A. It is available to take by mouth and as a topical skin treatment. There is more information about topical isotretinoin in a separate leaflet called "Isotretinoin (topical)".
Oral isotretinoin is used to treat acne which is severe and has not got better with other treatments such as oral antibiotics or skin treatments. It works by reducing the production of the skin's natural oil and is also thought to reduce inflammation.
Before taking isotretinoin
Before taking isotretinoin make sure your doctor or pharmacist knows:
- If you are pregnant, trying for a baby or breast-feeding.
- If you have kidney or liver problems.
- If you have high levels of fat in your blood, such as cholesterol.
- If you have ever had mental health problems such as depression, psychosis or suicidal thoughts.
- If you have diabetes mellitus.
- If you have ever had an alcohol addiction.
- If you know you have a condition called hypervitaminosis A (too much vitamin A stored in your body).
- If you have ever had an allergic reaction to this or to any other medicine, or if you are allergic to soya or peanuts.
- If you are taking other medicines, including those available to buy without a prescription, herbal or complementary medicines.
How to take isotretinoin
- Before beginning treatment, read the printed information leaflet you have been given.
- Take isotretinoin exactly as you have been told to by your doctor.
- Take isotretinoin with a drink of water, with or after a meal.
- Swallow the capsules whole, do not chew or suck them.
- Isotretinoin is taken once or twice each day. You will have been told which is right for you.
- Your dose may change - follow the instructions given to you by your doctor.
- If you forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember unless it is nearly time for your next dose, in which case leave out the missed dose. Do not take two doses together to make up for a missed dose.
- Only one course of isotretinoin is usually needed. A course of treatment usually lasts for 4-6 months.
Getting the most from your treatment
- Isotretinoin will damage an unborn baby or cause a miscarriage. Therefore it is very important that women taking isotretinoin do not get pregnant.
- If you are female, your doctor will explain the dangers of isotretinoin on an unborn baby and will discuss with you the importance of contraception. One or more forms of contraception are needed at least 1 month before starting treatment, during treatment, and for at least 1 month after stopping treatment.
- If you are female, your doctor will do pregnancy tests before your treatment starts, during your treatment, and 5 weeks after you have stopped isotretinoin. If at any time during your treatment and for 1 month following treatment you think you may be pregnant, you must speak with your doctor straight away.
- It is important that you keep your regular appointments with your doctor. You will need to have regular blood tests to check for changes in your blood, cholesterol, glucose and liver function.
- Isotretinoin is likely to make your skin and lips very dry, so use a moisturiser and lip balm regularly.
- Do not take vitamin supplements that contain vitamin A while you are taking isotretinoin.
- Do not donate blood while you are taking isotretinoin, and for one month after stopping treatment.
- Sometimes, acne can get worse at the start of this treatment, but this should resolve in a week or so.
- Your skin will become more sensitive to sunlight and UV light while you are taking isotretinoin. Do not use sunbeds and try to avoid direct sunlight. Use a sunblock and a lip balm with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15.
- Avoid hair removal by waxing, dermabrasion and laser skin treatment during, and for 6 months after isotretinoin.
- You might not see as well at night during your treatment with isotretinoin. If this happens, avoid driving or operating machinery at night.
- Prescriptions for isotretinoin must be dispensed within 7 days. After collecting a new prescription, take it to your pharmacy for dispensing straight away.
Can isotretinoin cause problems?
Along with their useful effects, all medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. These usually improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following side-effects become troublesome.
|Very common and common side-effects||What can I do if I experience this|
|Headache||Ask your pharmacist to recommend a suitable painkiller. If the headache continues or is severe, speak with your doctor|
|Dry skin and lips||Apply a moisturiser and lip balm regularly|
|Fragile skin||Take extra care when you wash and use products on your skin|
|Joint and muscle pain||Reducing the amount of strenuous exercise you do may help|
|Dry eyes||Ask your pharmacist to recommend some suitable eye drops. If you usually wear contact lenses, you may find wearing glasses more comfortable|
|Dry mouth||Try sucking sugar-free gum or sweets|
|Dry nose and nosebleeds||Try applying a thin layer of petroleum jelly to the inside of your nose|
|Cold-like symptoms, bruising, bleeding||If any of these become troublesome, speak with your doctor|
Important: If you experience the following, contact your doctor straight away:
- A severe, itching rash with blisters.
- Mood changes such as feeling depressed, or if you have any thoughts about harming yourself.
If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to this medicine, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.
How to store isotretinoin
- Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
- Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.
Important information about all medicines
Further reading & references
- British National Formulary; 59th Edition (March 2010) British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London.
- Manufacturer's PIL, Roaccutane® 10 mg and 20 mg Soft Capsules; Manufacturer's PIL, Roaccutane® 10 mg and 20 mg Soft Capsules, Roche Products Limited, electronic Medicines Compendium. Dated November 2010.
|Original Author: Helen Allen||Current Version: Helen Allen|
|Last Checked: 21/10/2010||Document ID: 3732 Version: 24||© EMIS|
Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.