There are numerous prescription drugs for the treatment for Acne. However, not all individuals respond to any one drug and thus often combination therapy is undertaken. Overall, the most effective products for the treatment of Acne are Vitamin A derived drugs. Vitamin A derived drugs, also known as Retinoids, have been around for at least 2 decades. These drugs are not the first choice drugs and are used to treat moderate to severe degrees of Acne. Retinoids act by decreasing comedomes (black heads) and also stop excess oil (Sebum) secretion from the sweat glands. These drugs are available either as a pill or as topical ointment. Retinoids are reserved for the most severe forms of acne. The drugs are very effective, but individuals who take it need close monitoring by a physician because of the possibility of severe side effects.
Until the past decade, tretinoin was the only available topical retinoid for acne. Tretinoin is used as a single agent and is effective for mild to moderate acne. The drug is available either as a cream, gel or liquid. The cream formulation has the lowest potency, and the liquid has the highest potency. All tretinoin formulations have the potential to cause some degree of skin irritation and this is related to the strength of the formulation.
Tretinoin should only be applied to clean dry skin. Because the drug can cause light sensitivity, sun exposure should be avoided when the drug is applied to the skin, or the treatment can be applied at night time. To minimize the skin irritation, tretinoin should be started at a low concentration, which can then be gradually increased as needed. Skin irritation usually decreases with continued therapy.
All users of tretinoin should be aware that when initially using the drug, a skin flare up may occur. This is common during initiation of therapy and not a sign of an adverse reaction. The skin flares up decreases over the next few days.
Retinoids and Side effects
All the oral Retinoids have the potential to cause birth defects, and thus the drug is not recommended during pregnancy. When a female of child bearing age is prescribed tretinoin, the adverse effect on this drug on the fetus must always be explained to the individual. Numerous litigation cases have occurred with the use of these drugs in young females. A signed consent from the individual acknowledging the use of this drug must be placed in the chart.
Occasionally the Retinoids may also cause an increase in the blood levels of fatty acids. Still in other individuals, Retinoids have been linked to worsening of depression and suicidal thoughts.
Sun sensitivity may occur in some individuals who do take Retinoids. Therefore, it is recommended that the individuals wear a sun screen or cover the skin while taking this medication
Other Topical Vitamin A products
Two other topical Retinoids have now become available for the treatment of Acne. Both Adapalene (Differin) and Tazarotene have been shown to be effective for the treatment of moderate to severe acne. The drugs are applied on the skin once a day and have been shown to have less skin irritation than most other topical acne drugs. Like the oral Retinoids, the use of these drugs in pregnant females is not recommended.
Vitamin A related Acne products have been shown to be very effective at treating acne scars and even wrinkles. The drugs may be taken orally or applied as a paste. When applied topically, they have been shown to rid the skin of the oils and clean the pores. The oral agents have been shown to be most effective for disfiguring acne and lead to a rapid resolution of the condition. It is claimed that the Retinoids have a peeling action on the skin, which also leads to skin tightening and hence a reduction in wrinkles on the face.