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Isotretinoin - Side Effects, Precautions, and Contraindications

What side effects can Isotretinoin cause?

In some people, the acne may seem to get worse during the first few weeks before improving.

Certain side effects of this medication may happen and may even disappear during treatment. If any of the following effects persist or are severe, consult your doctor. These side effects include:

  • Red, cracked and sore lips - Apply lip balm frequently.
  • Irritated and dry eyes - Apply eyedrops or artificial tears to prevent this. Stop the use of contact lenses if irritation persists.
  • Dry skin, sometimes with peeling - Apply moisturiser regularly to manage skin dryness
  • Dry mouth: Drink more water or suck on sweets.
  • Dry nose. Nose bleeding may occur for severe cases - Apply white soft paraffin to the lining inside of your nose. If it does not resolve, consult your pharmacist or doctor about decreasing the dose of the medication.
  • Increased risk of sunburn - Avoid staying directly under sunlight for long durations. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen product with Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30 and wear protective clothing when you are exposed to direct sunlight.

Most of these side effects will get better or go away as your body gets used to the medication. Inform your doctor if the side effects above become severe and bothersome.

Very rarely, this medication may cause:

  • Signs of drug allergy reaction: swollen face/eyes/lips/tongue, difficulty in breathing, itchy skin rashes over your whole body
  • The following uncommon side effects may occasionally occur. Consult your doctor if any of them becomes severe:
    • severe headache
    • muscle and joint pain or stiffness - avoid strenuous exercise
    • temporary hair loss
    • severe diarrhea
    • nausea and vomiting
    • dizziness
    • blurred vision or changes in your vision
    • mood changes including depression
  • Your doctor will also perform blood tests (cholesterol/triglycerides and liver function test) before you start the treatment and at least once during the course of treatment. This is to monitor for any abnormalities as isotretinoin can cause the level of cholesterol and triglycerides in your blood to increase and may cause raised liver enzymes.    

Before taking Isotretinoin , what precautions must I follow?

Inform your healthcare professional if:

  • You are allergic to this medication or any of the other ingredients of this medication.
  • You have diabetes, high cholesterol or triglycerides (fat in the blood), liver or kidney disease.
  • You are taking any other medications, including supplements, traditional medications and herbal remedies.
  • You are planning to undergo any surgical or dental procedures.
  • You are planning to undergo any skin or hair removal procedures e.g. waxing, dermabrasions, facial peels, laser treatments. This medication may cause skin to become more fragile, increasing the risk of poor wound healing and scar formation. Avoid these procedures during treatment and for at least 6 months after stopping the medication.
  • You are planning to donate blood. Do not donate blood when taking the medication and for at least 1 month after stopping the medication. This is to prevent passing donated blood to a pregnant woman and causing harm to the baby.

For female patients:

  • Isotretinoin has been reported to cause serious harm to unborn babies when taken during pregnancy. Women who are pregnant, who intend to become pregnant, or who are breast-feeding should tell their doctors before taking this medication.
  • You must use strict birth control for at least 1 month before you start isotretinoin, for the whole time you are taking isotretinoin and for at least 1 month after discontinuing this medication. Discuss contraception with your doctor or pharmacist.
  • Before you start taking your course of isotretinoin, you should wait until the 2nd or 3rd day of your of your next menstrual period. If you suspect you are pregnant, do not start the isotretinoin at all.

What food or medicine must I avoid when I take Isotretinoin ?

  • If you are already taking isotretinoin and discover that you have become pregnant, stop taking it immediately and tell your doctor.
  • Avoid taking alcohol when taking this medication as it can increase the level of triglycerides (fats) in your blood.
  • Do not take vitamin A supplements or multivitamins that contains vitamin A.
  • Do not take this medication if you are on any tetracycline class of antibiotics (doxycycline, minocycline, and tetracycline). This can increase the risk of high pressure in the brain leading to headaches, nausea and vomiting.
  • Tags: Acitretin, Isotretinoin
  • Updated on 5/31/2020 12:00:00 AM
  • Article contributed by PSS National Medication Information Workgroup PSS National Medication Information Workgroup
The information provided is not intended as medical advice. Terms of use. Information provided by SingHealth

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