|Type of medicine||A retinoid (similar to vitamin A)|
|Used for||Severe psoriasis and some other skin conditions|
Acitretin is used to treat severe skin conditions, such as psoriasis, where the surface of the skin has become thick and scaly. Normally, as new skin cells are produced, older ones are lost. With psoriasis, the skin cells in the outer layer of your skin multiply faster than normal and the old skin cells build up on the surface of your skin, causing red, scaly patches.
Acitretin is a retinoid, which means that it is related to vitamin A. Our bodies use vitamin A to maintain a healthy skin. Acitretin helps to control psoriasis by making your skin grow more normally.
Acitretin is sometimes used as a treatment on its own, but more often, it is used alongside other preparations.
Before taking acitretin
Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine may only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons, before you start taking acitretin it is important that your doctor or pharmacist knows:
- If you are pregnant, trying for a baby or breast-feeding. This is because you must not take acitretin if you think you are (or may be) pregnant.
- If you have liver or kidney problems.
- If you have high levels of lipids (fats) such as cholesterol in your blood.
- If you have diabetes mellitus.
- If you are taking or using any other medicines. This includes any medicines you are taking which are available to buy without a prescription, such as herbal and complementary medicines.
- If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine.
How to take acitretin
- Before you start this treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside your pack and any other information you are given by your doctor. The leaflets will give you more information about acitretin and a full list of side-effects which you may experience from taking it.
- Take the capsules exactly as your doctor has told you. Acitretin is taken once daily. Your doctor or pharmacist will tell you how many capsules to take and this will also be printed on the label of the pack to remind you. Take each of your doses with a snack, or just after eating a meal. It is a good idea to swallow the capsules with a drink of water or milk.
- Try to take acitretin at the same time each day, as this will help you to remember to take it. If you forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember. If you do not remember until the following day, skip the missed dose. Do not take two doses together to make up for a forgotten dose.
Getting the most from your treatment
- It is important for you to keep your regular appointments with your doctor. This is so your doctor can check on your progress. You will need to have regular blood tests during this treatment, to check your lipid levels are normal and your liver remains healthy. If you are a woman, you will also need to have regular tests to confirm that you are not pregnant.
- It will take 2-4 weeks before you start to feel the benefit from this medicine and it may take a further two weeks or so before you feel the maximum benefit. A course of treatment is likely to last for around six months, but occasionally it may be longer than this.
- Acitretin is harmful to unborn babies, so it is very important that you do not become pregnant while you are on acitretin. Your doctor will advise you about suitable contraception and this may include using more than one method. Continue to use suitable contraception for at least three years after you finish your course of treatment. If at any time during your treatment or the three years afterwards, you think you may be pregnant, contact your doctor for advice straightaway.
- Do not give blood while you are on acitretin and for at least two years after you finish taking it.
- If you buy any medicines or herbal preparations, check with your doctor or a pharmacist that they are suitable to take with acitretin. This is because you must not take any other preparations which contain vitamin A.
- Acitretin may cause your skin to become more sensitive to sunlight than normal. Use a sun cream that protects against UVA light and has a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15, especially in strong sunlight. Do not use sunbeds.
- If you normally drink alcohol, ask your doctor for advice. Your doctor may recommend you do not drink alcohol while you are on this medicine.
- If you have diabetes you may need to check your blood glucose more frequently, as these capsules may affect the levels of sugar in your blood. Your doctor will be able to advise you about this.
Can acitretin cause problems?
Along with their useful effects, most 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 continue or become troublesome.
|Very common acitretin side-effects - these affect around 1 in 10 people taking this medicine
||What can I do if I experience this?|
|Dry mouth, feeling thirsty, sore mouth||Try chewing sugar-free gum or sucking sugar-free sweets. If this continues, ask your doctor for advice|
|Problems with your eyesight such as dry eyes, blurred vision, (and occasionally reduced night vision)||Take extra care when driving at night. If this becomes troublesome, speak with your doctor|
|Dry skin and lips, peeling||Use a moisturising cream and lip salve regularly|
|Abdominal pain, feeling sick, diarrhoea||Stick to simple meals (avoid rich or spicy foods). Drink plenty of water to replace lost fluids|
|Muscle and joint pain||Let your doctor know about this|
|Headache||Ask your pharmacist to recommend a suitable painkiller|
|Nose irritation and nose bleeds, weak nails, swollen feet and ankles, mood changes, loss of hair and changes in hair texture||If any of these become troublesome, speak with your doctor|
If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to this medicine, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.
How to store acitretin
- 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; 63rd Edition (Mar 2012) British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London
- Manufacturer's PIL, Neotigason® 10 mg & 25 mg Capsules; Actavis UK Ltd, The electronic Medicines Compendium. Dated June 2011.
|Original Author: Helen Allen||Current Version: Helen Allen||Peer Reviewer: Prof Cathy Jackson|
|Last Checked: 26/09/2012||Document ID: 3727 Version: 23||© 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.