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Does Joint Pain From Accutane Go Away?

does joint pain from accutane go away

TL;DR ARTICLE SUMMARY

Some of us who went through Accutane treatment experienced side effects that resolved after stopping it, while others had side effects that lingered for weeks, months, and in some cases, years. One of the less common side effects of Accutane is joint pain that doesn’t go away. Joint pain from Accutane should go away after stopping the treatment, but in rare cases, the pain can be ongoing, in which case you would need to get checked by your MD. With their help, you may consider natural methods to combat joint pain such as modifying your diet and taking anti-inflammatory supplements like turmeric.

Accutane and Its Bad Sides

Accutane is (or better said, was) a branded product with the active ingredient isotretonin. It’s a powerful drug which works wonders for people grapping with severe scarring acne, having between 75-99% success ratio in terms of lasting improvements in acne.

Unfortunately, it has an ugly side, too. Accutane has been known for causing or at the very least contributing to serious side effects in user, from liver problems, to IBS, increased risk of bleeding, thinning hair, and sun sensitivity. And this is just a part of the list of side effects.

Another side effects that is, granted, less common but still very serious is joint pain – that sometimes doesn’t go away.

To understand why you might be having joint pain from Accutane and how to stop the pain, we need to first look at how the drug works.

Accutane’s Mechanisms of Action in the Body

As we said, Accutane is just a name of the brand. The actual medication that is used for treating severe acne is called isotretonin. This is the active ingredient of Accutane. There are many other brands other than Accutane that use isotretonin.

Okay, so isotretonin is a potent medication that is only prescribed by dermatologists when nothing else works for severe, persistent nodular acne. This form of acne is large and painful, showing as lumps deep beneath the skin’s surface, which sadly, often lead to permanent scarring.

So, how does Accutane solve this severe acne, you ask? The answer is that it reduces your skin’s oil glands by around 35-58%, while also reducing the amount of oil these glands make. [2] As a result, your skin sebum is prevented from hardening, reducing the formation of acne in the process.

As we said, Accutane used to only be prescribed to people who haven’t seen improvements from other acne treatments, antibiotics included. But, because of its potential side effects, isotretonin drugs like Accutane are generally seen as a last-resort option.

Side Effects of Accutane

Most people who took Accutane (the writer of this article included) experienced at least some mild side effects such as dry skin, lips, and eyes, along with occasional nosebleeds and itching and increased light sensitivity.

While these can be annoying, they are easily managed.

This can’t be said for more severe side effects, sadly. Things like severe stomach pain, liver problems, vision problems, and yes – joint pain. These side effects aren’t common but if they do occur, you need to stop taking isotretonin and talk to your doctor.

Because of Accutane’s high risk, it has been pulled off the shelves. However, there are still other brands of isotretonin on the market.

Joint Pain and Accutane

Okay, let’s talk about the elephant in the room – why does Accutane cause joint pain and does this pain go away?

Accutane’s effect on reducing oil production isn’t isolated only to the skin. It can also reduce lubrication in other areas, including the joints. The decreased oil production can potentially lead to drier joints which results in stiffness and discomfort, especially when you do physical activity.

How many people who used Accutane got joint pain? Some studies report up to 16%, but this may not be a fully accurate number. [1]

Joint pain tends to increase with the dosage, with higher doses more likely to produce this side effects, and make it stay longer. Lower doses, even if they caused some joint pain, typically come with a much less risk of contributing to lasting joint pain.

So, is there hope for those people with lasting joint pain; does the joint pain from Accutane go away? The good news is that for most people, even if it takes months, goes away. More often, joint pain will go away as soon as the treatment is finished.

But, there are some people who report persistent joint pain even after stopping isotretonin. Not all hope is lost though, in fact hope never dies, and that goes with Accutane side effects that don’t seem to go away. Let’s look at ways of managing or completely getting rid of Accutane joint pain.

joint pain from accutane

Tackling Accutane Joint Pain

There are concrete ways you can relieve joint pain that resulted from Accutane, even if it’s been lingering for months or years now.

If you are only experiecing joint pain during your isotretonin treatment, then it’s essential to talk with your dermatologist or MD to modify your dose or steer clear of the drug altogether.

Alongside help from your doctor, various lifestyle changes can also reduce joint pain and stiffness. Doing low-impact exercises such as swimming or cycling is an excellent way to strengthen the muscles that support your joints, without adding stress to actual joints.

Proper hydration, a diet high in omega-3 fats and anti-inflammatory foods, and 7-9 hours of sleep will ensure you have your bases covered. Just this should significantly reduce your joint pain.

If the pain still persists, though, it’s worth considering adding supplements to your routine such as curcumin, MSM, glucosamine+chondroitin, and bromelain.

Remember, if your pain gets worse or is persistent, the first and most important step is to ask for medical help from your doctor. This is important to do as early as possible to prevent further problems.

Related: Does Joint Pain Always Mean Arthritis?

Conclusion

Most side effects of Accutane, joint pain included, go away after the treatment ends. But, as we saw, some people still report lingering joint pain. [3] In these cases the solution is to check with your doctor, along with trying the science-backed lifestyle modifications we’ve mentioned in this article.

References

  1. Matsuoka LY, Wortsman J, Pepper JJ. Acute Arthritis During Isotretinoin Treatment for Acne. Arch Intern Med. 1984;144(9):1870–1871. doi:10.1001/archinte.1984.00350210200037
    https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/article-abstract/604850
  2. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1046/j.1439-0353.2004.03739.x#pane-pcw-references
  3. Aydog E, Ozturk G, Comert A, Tasdelen N, Akin O, Kulcu DG. Sacroiliitis during isotretinoin treatment: Causal association or coincidence? North Clin Istanb. 2018 Aug 7;6(1):75-80. doi: 10.14744/nci.2018.93798. PMID: 31180372; PMCID: PMC6526982.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6526982/

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