Isotretinoin and the eye: A review for the dermatologist

Dermatol Ther. 2020 Nov;33(6):e14029. doi: 10.1111/dth.14029. Epub 2020 Aug 12.


Due to the prevalence of acne vulgaris, isotretinoin is one of the most prescribed drugs among physicians and dermatologists. Although exhibiting an adequate safety profile, adverse events secondary to isotretinoin use are common. Before prescribing isotretinoin, physicians usually inquire about pregnancy and perform serologic tests including cholesterol, triglycerides, and liver enzymes. Ocular manifestations are commonly neglected. Despite being generally mild, ocular manifestations related to either topical or systemic isotretinoin may cause important ocular morbidity. The ocular surface is the most affected site within the eye; however, retinal and optic nerve disease also have been documented. Evaporative dry eye disease, which may range from mild to severe, is the most common adverse ocular effect associated with isotretinoin use. The aim of this review is to present an up-to-date overview for the dermatologist about the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of the ocular side effects of isotretinoin, and when to refer to the eye specialist.

Keywords: blepharitis; dry eye disease; isotretinoin; meibomian gland dysfunction; ocular surface.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acne Vulgaris* / diagnosis
  • Acne Vulgaris* / drug therapy
  • Dermatologic Agents* / adverse effects
  • Dermatologists
  • Eye
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Isotretinoin / adverse effects
  • Pregnancy
  • Triglycerides


  • Dermatologic Agents
  • Triglycerides
  • Isotretinoin