Isotretinoin for Teens: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Isotretinoin is a medicine used to clear acne.

This medicine works by unclogging skin pores and shrinking oil glands. It can take 6 or more months to fully treat acne. If acne returns after treatment is done, it usually is not as bad as it was before.

Common side effects include dry skin, nose, mouth, eyes, and lips. Some people also feel more tired than usual, sunburn more easily, have problems with night vision, or lose more hair than usual.

Isotretinoin can have serious risks, especially during pregnancy. Just one dose can cause severe birth defects or miscarriage. It can also cause severe headaches, arm or leg pain, or changes in your liver or blood. When taking this medicine, you will have regular blood tests to see how it is affecting your liver and to check your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Testing is usually done every month.

There may be a link between this medicine and depression or other serious mood problems. Your doctor will want to know if you have mood changes.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Do not take this medicine if there is any chance you are pregnant.
  • Protect against pregnancy if you are a teen or woman in your childbearing years. Use two forms of birth control if you have sex while you are taking isotretinoin and for 1 month after you stop taking the medicine.
  • Do not take vitamin A when using this medicine. It can make side effects worse.
  • Use a vaporizer or humidifier to add moisture to your bedroom. Follow the directions for cleaning the machine.
  • Relieve eye dryness with eyedrops, such as preservative-free Artificial Tears.
  • Relieve skin dryness with lotion. Apply it to damp skin right after you shower. Use lip balm.
  • Relieve mouth dryness with sugar-free gum or candy such as lemon drops. Drink fluids throughout the day. Try rinsing your mouth a lot and taking small sips of water often.
  • Relieve nose dryness with saline (saltwater) nasal washes. You can buy saline nose drops at a grocery store or drugstore. Or you can make your own at home by adding 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of baking soda to 2 cups of distilled water. If you make your own, fill a bulb syringe with the solution, insert the tip into your nostril, and squeeze gently. Blow your nose.
  • Protect your eyes and skin from the sun. Always wear sunscreen on exposed skin. Make sure to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. Use it every day, even when it is cloudy.
  • Take your medicine exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You feel you cannot stop from hurting yourself or someone else.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • There is any chance you might be pregnant.
  • You hear voices.
  • You have problems with your vision.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You think you may be depressed.
  • You get a severe headache.
  • You have a question about this medicine.
  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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Current as of: February 5, 2016