Analysis of common side effects of isotretinoin

J Am Acad Dermatol. 2001 Nov;45(5):S188-94. doi: 10.1067/mjd.2001.113719.


Patients with severe recalcitrant nodular acne that is unresponsive to conventional therapy (including topical and systemic antibiotics) have few alternative effective treatment modalities other than the use of oral isotretinoin (Accutane). The cause of acne vulgaris is multifactorial, but the pathogenesis of this disorder of the pilosebaceous follicles arises mainly from endogenous factors. It is usually, but not always, associated with the onset of puberty. Severe acne, defined by the prevalence of facial and truncal inflammatory lesions, is a disfiguring disease that can often result in significant permanent scarring after the healing of deep inflammatory lesions and other disorders, such as systemic bacterial infections. Topical treatments are considered as the first line of therapy for less severe forms of acne, although systemic treatments such as antibiotics or antiandrogen agents are effective for either mild or moderate forms and sometimes effective for severe acne. However, in many patients with large numbers of nodules, longer treatment periods with these agents are required to reduce the count of inflammatory lesions. It has become increasingly evident that (because topical agents and antibiotic or antiandrogenic therapy have a slow onset of action) even mild or moderate acne that is treated in this way can result in scarring. In addition, the excessive use of systemic antibiotics has led to the detection of increasing numbers of antibiotic-resistant bacteria on the skin of patients with acne.(1) Therefore, because of its relatively rapid onset of action and its high efficacy with reducing more than 90% of the most severe inflammatory lesions, Accutane has a role as an effective treatment in patients with severe acne that is recalcitrant to other therapies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acne Vulgaris / drug therapy
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Chemical and Drug Induced Liver Injury
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertriglyceridemia / chemically induced
  • Isotretinoin / adverse effects*
  • Isotretinoin / therapeutic use
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / chemically induced
  • Mucous Membrane / drug effects
  • Mucous Membrane / pathology
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Product Labeling
  • Stomatitis / chemically induced
  • Vision Disorders / chemically induced


  • Isotretinoin