Isotretinoin is a powerful medication used primarily to treat severe and persistent forms of acne. It belongs to a class of compounds called retinoids, which are derivatives of vitamin A. Isotretinoin is available in various forms, including capsules and oral solutions, and it is taken by mouth.
Isotretinoin works by targeting several factors involved in the development of acne:
- Reducing Sebum Production: It significantly reduces the production of sebum, the oily substance produced by the skin’s sebaceous glands. Excessive sebum production is a primary factor in the development of acne.
- Preventing Clogged Pores: Isotretinoin helps prevent the formation of clogged hair follicles and pores, which are known as comedones, and are often precursors to acne lesions.
- Anti-Inflammatory Effects: It has anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce the redness and swelling associated with acne.
Isotretinoin is known for its effectiveness in treating severe, nodular, or cystic acne that has not responded to other acne treatments. However, it also comes with potential side effects, some of which can be serious. Because of these side effects, isotretinoin is usually prescribed and monitored by a healthcare provider. It’s also well-known for its teratogenic effects, meaning it can cause birth defects in developing fetuses, so strict pregnancy prevention measures are typically required for women of childbearing potential who are taking isotretinoin.