Accutane Side Effects

by on June 11, 2012


Accutane side effects are extremely common and can range from dry eyes and headache to depression and permanent dry skin. Because of the drug’s potential for serious, irreversible side effects, it is closely regulated and only prescribed when other possible treatment options are unsuccessful. Many patients experience adverse skin reactions, fatigue, and back pain. Some individuals have developed irritable bowel syndrome as a result of taking Accutane (isotretinoin).

Common Accutane Side Effects

Many users experience side effects during treatment with Accutane. Individuals who take lower doses of the medication typically report fewer symptoms and can still see positive results. Some of the most common side effects associated with Accutane include:

  • Dry skin, especially around the eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Chapped, cracked, or sore lips
  • Changes in skin coloration
  • Changes in the appearance of fingernails or toenails
  • Peeling skin on the palms and bottoms of the feet
  • Symptoms of a cold
  • Dry eyes that may make contact lenses uncomfortable
  • Muscle, joint, or back pain
  • Unexplained nosebleeds
  • Eye irritation
  • Gum irritation or bleeding gums
  • Fatigue
  • Unexplained sweating

If any of the symptoms above continue for several days or interfere with your daily activities, contact your doctor to adjust your dosage or to discuss other options.

Serious Accutane Side Effects

In most cases, Accutane users will not experience any severe side effects. If you have any of the following symptoms, contact your physician immediately:

  • Severe headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Painful or difficult swallowing
  • Blurred vision or other vision problems
  • Dizziness
  • Jaundice or yellowing of the skin and eyes
  • Prolonged pain in muscles, joints, bones, or back
  • Weakness in the muscles or on one side of the body
  • Dark colored urine
  • Stomach pain
  • Seizures
  • New heartburn or heartburn that is more severe than usual
  • Hearing difficulties or ringing in the ears
  • Slow, slurred, or difficult speech
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Chest pain
  • A red skin rash
  • Blistering skin
  • Fever
  • Unusual thirst
  • Abnormal thoughts or behaviors
  • Sudden or drastic mood changes

There may be other side effects that are not mentioned here. If you experience any unusual or unexplained reactions while taking isotretinoin, let your physician know immediately.

Permanent Side Effects

Some users continue to suffer from side effects even after their Accutane treatment ends. Inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, are the most frequently cited and the basis for several thousands of lawsuits against the manufacturers of Accutane.

Other permanent side effects reported by Accutane users include decreased night vision, dry skin, dry eyes, excessive bone growth, and keloids.


The most serious side effects associated with the use of Accutane (isotretinoin) are those that can occur during pregnancy. As a FDA pregnancy category X drug, extreme precautions must be taken to prevent the use of Accutane at any stage of pregnancy. It is highly likely that the pregnancy will result in miscarriage, premature birth, or still birth. There is a high risk of infancy death and birth defects in pregnancies that are carried to term.

In the US, female patients of child bearing age must take a pregnancy test before beginning treatment with Accutane and must commit to using 2 acceptable forms of birth control throughout the treatment and for a month before and after using the medication.

Use in Children

In the past, Accutane has been prescribed to treat acne in teens and adolescents. Retinoids like isotretinoin slow the growth of new cartilage in the body, which in turn slows bone growth. Studies have found that even low dosages of Accutane can cause advanced bone age and premature epiphyseal closure in teens that are still growing. According to the findings, these side effects can occur in as little as 5 months of treatment. This can result in noticeable stunted growth and can go undetected when it occurs in bones that are not measured, like the sternum.

Discuss the benefits and risks of Accutane with your child’s doctor before agreeing to this treatment option.

Other Medications

Some medications may interact adversely with isotretinoin. This could intensify the side effects of Accutane or could make the drug less effective. If you are currently taking any of the following medications, discuss the risks with your doctor before starting treatment with Accutane.

  • Oral steroids such as prednisone, dexamethasone, etc.
  • Antibiotics like oxytetracycline, demeclocycline, etc.
  • Seizure medications such as phenytoin
  • Vitamin A supplements

Remember that some medications, particularly certain antibiotics, can decrease the effectiveness of some forms of birth control. Discuss alternatives with your physician to prevent the chance of pregnancy while taking Accutane.

The high risk of serious Accutane side effects may not be worth the benefit the medication can provide in many cases. Talk with your doctor in depth about how Accutane will affect your life before making a decision to start treatment and monitor your progress closely with your physician even after the treatment has ended.