Journey to Clear Skin (Part 2)- ROACCUTANE

Welcome to part 2! Roaccutane! 

During my first year of university a fire alarm went off in our university halls, we had no idea if it was a drill or a real emergency. As everyone else was running outside to the fire safety location, I was liberally applying foundation to my face in an attempt to hide my skin, in order to feel able to go outside and be seen by people. It was then that I realised I had to do something more to help my skin, because I was now potentially putting my life in danger. All because I was so conscious of my acne and my skin. Which is utterly ridiculous!

These photos show how bad my skin was the first year of university. This was my skin under full coverage makeup! Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos without makeup of this time as I never took photos without makeup, as I didn’t want to have any evidence or a record of it in case someone went on my phone or saw the pictures when I was on my phone. And to be honest I just didn’t want be reminded of it.

Doctors Appointment

After seeing these photos and the fire alarm incident, I booked an appointment with the new doctors surgery I had registered with to try and find out if there was anything that could help me! After taking off all my makeup for the doctor (nightmare) the doctor began the referral process for me to see a dermatologist. So I walked out of the appointment (quickly reapplied my makeup in the doctor’s surgery toilets) and waited for the letter which gave me an appointment with the dermatologist.

Dermatologist

The dermatologist immediately suggested roaccutane. I was given a brochure and instructed to do my own research in addition to the information they gave me at the consultation. Roaccutane can simply be described as a medication to treat “severe forms of acne (such as nodular or conglobate acne or acne at risk of permanent scarring) resistant to adequate courses of standard therapy with systemic anti-bacterials and topical therapy.)” “Roaccutane capsules contain the active ingredient isotretinoin. Isotretinoin belongs to a group of medicines known as retinoids, which are derivatives of vitamin A.”

Stages to Being Prescribed Roaccutane

Before being prescribed roaccutane it is compulsory to undergo a series of tests in order to determine if you will be allowed to take the medication. The first ‘test’ I underwent was a questionnaire on my family’s medical history. This included questions about immediate and extended family experiencing a range of issues including; strokes, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, mental illness etc. The second was a personal medical history assessment which looked into if I had experienced mental illness in any form, such as depression, or if I had any hormonal issues or diabetes etc. If these stages were passed/satisfactory/completed, for the third stage, I was then required to take a pregnancy test as you are unable to take roaccutane if you are pregnant due to severe side effects which would affect the unborn child. As I was not pregnant, I was then obligated to undergo blood tests, as the fourth stage, which would assess; blood count, liver function and serum lipids (cholesterol and triglycerides). This information is necessary to determine that you are in good health and also to formulate a baseline from your results in order to measure how roaccutane is affecting your body in the subsequent blood tests. The blood tests continue intermittently (roughly 3 month intervals) throughout taking the medication and after the course of treatment is completed.

Pregnancy Prevention Programme

In addition, prior to being able to take roaccutane you must adhere to the pregnancy prevention programme. The PPP guarantees that you are not pregnant and will not be able to get pregnant during the course of treatment, normally through the patient starting or continuing to take the birth control pill. I personally did not want to take the pill, as I felt I would be overloading myself with medication, therefore I elected to sign an agreement to abstain from sex for the duration of treatment. I spoke to my dermatologist and primary doctor in depth about this choice and personally decided it would be best for me, however, I would recommend that anyone making this decision does the same and talks to the necessary people in their life to make an informed decision which best suits them.

Roaccutane should not be taken if you are:

  • breastfeeding
  • pregnant or planning to get pregnant
  • allergic to peanuts or soya (due to the contents and ingredients in the tablet)
  • etc

Side Effects

During the initial consultation the dermatologist warned me about a number of side effects. However, I was so desperate to have the medication to help me, and didn’t think I would actually experience any of them I just breezed through the conversation and didn’t ask enough questions initially. I will just highlight some of the main side effects/ concerns in bullet point form, obviously if you are considering taking roaccutane I would recommend doing your own thorough research and talking in depth to your dermatologist/ medication practitioner. The stated side effects range from common to very rare in various medical literature.

  • Mental
    • Psychiatric disorders e.g. depression, depression aggravated, anxiety, aggressive tendencies, mood alterations, psychotic symptoms, and very rarely, suicidal ideation, suicide attempts and suicide have been reported in patients treated with isotretinoin
  • Physical
    • Allergic reactions e.g. anaphylactic reactions or allergic cutaneous reactions
    • Eye disorders e.g. dry eyes, corneal opacities, decreased night vision and keratitis
    • Elevated serum lipid values 
    • Gastrointestinal disorders e.g. inflammatory bowel disease
    • Dryness of the skin
    • Dryness of the mucosae e.g. of the lips, the nasal mucosa and the eyes
    • Headaches
    • Back pain
    • Body aches

The Side Effects I Personally Experienced

  • Mental/Emotional
    • Feeling low
    • Anxiety
    • Inability to concentrate
  • Physical
    • Redness
    • Body aches
    • Fatigue
    • Dry lips- it is a struggle to smile, your lips crack and bleed all the time. Sometimes it was even a struggle to open my mouth to eat or talk. Vaseline and other products can help but it was something I just couldn’t get away from.
    • Nose bleeds
    • Dry hands
    • Dry face (specifically around the nose)
    • Bleeding sometimes when going to the toilet- number 2 (TMI I know sorry!!)

Duration of Treatment and Dosage

I think in total I ended up taking roaccutane for approximately one year (mid 2011- mid 2012 roughly) The highest dosage I was taking for part of the treatment was 80mg. I believe the dosage varies based on severity and body weight.

Before and After

After completing the course of roaccutane my skin was completely clear!!! I suffered with slight redness for a short period of time, but the dry skin and redness quickly cleared up. I got the occasional spot around my period but nothing to complain about! I was so so happy!

Impacts Since Completing Treatment

Since completing the treatment, I personally feel I have had impacts which I feel link to the medication. After ending the medication I feel that I suffer a great deal with anxiety and constantly over-worrying about things, obviously concerns are valid but some worries are so small and insignificant and I worry for days. This has never been a problem for me prior to taking roaccutane. In addition, I feel I am suffering from a loss of the ability to focus/concentrate properly. I struggle to focus on reading books and watching entire films, even ones I’m desperate to read/see. I find this so irritating and will myself to focus but it remains a struggle. In addition, since taking roaccutane I have developed allergies or intolerances to a number of foods and products including coconut oil, in which a rash develops as soon as it touches my skin. I find this very strange as it developed shortly after finishing the course of treatment and I had no allergies prior.

Did it work???

The big question! DID IT LAST? AM I FIXED? I had so much hope! Unfortunately around 6-8 months after completing the course of treatment the acne gradually started to return. It has never been as bad as it was prior to taking roaccutane, but I am disappointed I went through all of the side effects and it wasn’t permanent, or even just longer lasting!

 

 

I have included a number of links throughout this post, to direct you to websites specifically explaining or talking about roaccutane, so you can have more information if you wish.

Moving forward, the next blog post is about highstreet and pharmacy treatments I have tried and tested since taking roaccutane!

One thought on “Journey to Clear Skin (Part 2)- ROACCUTANE

  1. Pingback: proactiv+ (Review) | Bea Recurring

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