Summer in the shade: Roaccutane (week 10)

A very short update today as I haven’t posted in a while!

I am now entering my tenth week of roaccutane. I was originally told that I would be on the pills for 4 months so, feeling glad that I was half way through but concerned about the fact that my skin might not have made the progress it should have by that point, I expressed my worries to my dermatologist. She then delivered the news that, instead of the time span she initially said it would be, because I was on such a low dose (30mg, now 40mg) and I’m assuming because of my 5’11 height and corresponding weight, it would be more like 6-8 months. I was pretty gutted at first (giving up drink and sunbathing throughout the summer…hellish!) but now I’m keeping the end goal of clear skin in mind, which is spurring me on.

I have now been bumped up to 40mg and, fingers crossed, there hasn’t been any noticeable increase in side effects. My eyes are still blurry, I’m ridiculously tired and my lips are always horribly dry, but it’s manageable. I have had a few breakouts recently (on the same scale as they would have been if I wasn’t taking the pills), but because I think I have realistic expectations and have grown so used to having acne, this hasn’t affected me as much. A lot of people have said I look very tired, and on pictures from nights out, I think I look ill, but this could be a case of going OTT with foundation to cover up the breakouts!  I also found out recently that one of my friends is one month into roaccutane – it’s funny how little these things are discussed! On the whole, she is also pleased with the results as, like me, she has found that the texture of her skin, spots aside, has become smoother. However, she has had to take a break from her pills as her liver function test came back with abnormally high levels in relation to alcohol consumption – funny, as she is practically tee-total! This has motivated me to start living a bit healthier, especially while on the pills, to make sure I’m not doing any more damage to my body. That said, if my body continues to tolerate the 40mg, I may ask my dermatologist to increase the dose at our next appointment – hopefully this will be able to shorten the time I will be on the pills for! Overall, I am happy with the way things are progressing, and hope the side effects stay as manageable as they are.

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Downing pills instead of shots: partying on Roaccutane (week 6)

So, I have missed a couple of blog entries in the last few weeks, as I returned home during my half-term break (I currently work as a teaching assistant), and was kept busy visiting long-lost friends and family (for the first time in a good few months, I felt as though I resumed some semblance of a normal life again!) Being in my early 20s, this = nights out. I was a bit dubious about how much fun I’d have going alcohol-free, being knocked and jostled by people who had had a bit too much (usually me).

After doing quite a bit of research into roaccutane, I found that doctors and patients generally appeared to agree that alcohol in low quantities, very infrequently, shouldn’t do too much damage. When I was out, I treated myself to two single vodka and cokes over a seven-hour stretch and downed plenty of water…and actually had a great time! I also found that I could feel the effects of these drinks (usually they wouldn’t even touch the sides) – I think this has something to do with the fact that roaccutane thins the blood, so the alcohol gets into your bloodstream faster – no need for eyeballing for those inclined! I also had a date that week, and being my first 1st date in 3 and a half years (and first date at all in 8 months – it’s taken a while to get back out there!) – oh, I was nervous! I had 2 glasses of wine to steady my nerves which, again, I felt the effects of (with some slightly embarrassing consequences!) but, touchwood, I didn’t feel any negative effects to my body, and my last lot of blood-work came back fine.

As for other side effects, in the last month there have been quite a few (I am still on a 30mg dose). I’ve had two rather heavy nosebleeds, which my dermatologist told me wasn’t normal, and warned me they might have to run some more blood tests to check my blood count. This was right after my last blog post, and I haven’t seen a recurrence of them yet.

Another side effect is dry hair…I am literally going a week without washing my hair at the minute because there is no oil being produced whatsoever. This is actually quite a nice side effect for me, as it used to get greasy extremely quickly.

I’m still experiencing a few ups and downs in moods, although I think this is definitely related to how you’re feeling anyway – I don’t like where I’m living at the minute, but when I returned home, my mood was fine due to the fact I was glad to be back. I can think of an episode down here though when I bizarrely burst into tears when I thought I’d lost a book (and not one that was sob-worthy), accused someone of putting it in the bin, and then woke up in the middle of the night to find it in bed with me, digging into my side. Very, very odd!

My least favourite side-effect I’ve had in the past few days is the onset of very noticeable eczema, predominantly down my left arm. It is upsetting, but the way I see it is, even if I’m stuck with it after the course of pills is over, fingers crossed it should be easier to consistently treat than acne. Although I have a photo-shoot today, and am not thrilled by how it has timed its appearance! I’ve treated it overnight with palmer’s cocoa butter formula and sudocrem, and it had made a bit of a difference, but plan to get some hydrocortisone cream or e45 moisturiser (which my friend’s dad actually invented, and I am assured it’s the best!)

As for other side effects, the dandruff doesn’t seem to be as obvious, I still feel a bit more tired and achy than usual and I’m getting a few headaches but, so far, these are manageable.

The products I’m using for my acne are aquaphor (a lifesaver), blistex medplus lipbalm, sudocrem (for individual spots), boots moisturising day cream (I mix this with some aquaphor and it works well at preventing my skin becoming too dry throughout the day). I alternate between using avene cleanance gel and simple facewipes to cleanse my skin, although I may look into the cetaphil range, as I have heard excellent reviews about this.

All-in-all I am pleased with how my skin in progressing, and have not had many spots appear in the last few weeks, just plenty of red marks that have been left over, but which seem to be fading. I am aware that people experience breakouts as late as 3 months on roaccutane though, so I am prepared for this. For anyone else taking roaccutane/accutane, I would be interested to hear your experiences also!

Dry eyes, dodgy stomachs and crying on co-workers : Roaccutane (week 2)

Okay, so I’m feeling a few of the symptoms beginning to kick in now. My lips, eyes and skin are definitely getting drier, I’ve had (more than a few) dodgy stomach days, some very odd aches and pains and am acquiring a dry, itchy scalp (hello dandruff – how attractive!) I’m feeling a slight increase in tiredness (with possibly a touch of insomnia) and a few mood swings too (I cried on a colleague for the first time ever the other day!) However, when I spoke to my father about it, he gave some of his usual words of wisdom – ‘you sound like a typical woman to me’ – thanks Dad! I can’t necessarily attribute all of this to the pills though; I could possibly be experiencing a slight placebo effect, where I’m looking out for side effects because I’m expecting them.

Good points? Err, not too many so far! I’ve had a very minor breakout but my skin is actually feeling slightly smoother. My hair’s probably getting less greasy too, which is a bit of a bonus! I have to stress though, while it seems I’m getting a lot of side-effects, they are easily manageable at the moment, and not bad enough to put me off taking them. I also know it’s still early days, and will likely see an increase in the tablets’ effects (hopefully good as well as bad) over the next few weeks, so for anyone interested in this, I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.

Taking a risk – Roaccutane (week 1)

Bad skin. Acne. For those of you afflicted with the same curse as myself, you’ll know how debilitating and horrible this condition is. For girls, it makes you cake on make-up you wouldn’t do normally, grow your hair long to hide behind it (which, ironically, probably makes the problem worse) and, on a particularly bad day, makes you want to just hide away in a dark cave somewhere. I even feel uncomfortable writing this post, and I’m basically anonymous! And for guys, I can’t even begin to imagine how you deal with it without the luxury of foundation – I think girls possibly have this one a little easier.

The problem is, if you haven’t suffered it yourself, it’s difficult to contemplate how hard it is for people with the condition. Especially if a person is able to cover it well, often people tell you that it’s not that bad and can’t understand why you’re so self-conscious about it. Or there are those that assume that you need to keep yourself clean and wash more often – again, ironically, acne sufferers probably keep their faces and bodies cleaner than the majority of the population in order to combat their bad skin. The fact is, it’s a horrible, horrible condition that really does have a negative impact of the sufferers’ confidence.

So, after attempting to deal with this for around 10 years, using various over-the-counter remedies (didn’t work) and prescriptions from the doctor (didn’t work), I was finally referred to a dermatologist, and have been put on Accutane (Roaccutane in Britian).

If you saw me on a good day, you wouldn’t necessarily think I had bad skin (god bless make-up). This made me question whether I was making the right decision going on Roaccutane. I was terrified of taking these pills beforehand, and actually still am. It only takes a quick search of Accutane to bring up thousands of posts from people saying ‘it’s ruined my life’, ‘I wish I’d never taken it’ and listing side effects I never knew was possible. However, people have to remember that, for every horror story, there are plenty of positive ones from people who say it’s the best thing they’ve ever done, and they wished they’d done it sooner. People tend to report the bad stuff, right?

With this in mind, and I think a pretty realistic view of the possible side effects, I am now 1 week into a  4 month course of Roaccutane (30mg day – my skin condition would probably be described as moderate).  So far – to be honest, there have been very few noticeable effects of any kind. My skin hasn’t really had any new breakouts this week, but occasionally I do have weeks like that. As for side effects, not many yet (famous last words, I’m sure). My lips feel like they may be starting to get a little dryer, and I’ve had quite a few stomach aches (but I suffer from these anyway – what good genes I’ve been blessed with!). I am aware it’s very early days, and am fully expecting the side effects to start hitting soon (I am armed and ready with Vaseline, lip balm and aquaphor!) so I’ll report back next week and see if anything’s changed. For those of you on it, I’m interested to hear how your experiences are. I’ll post soon too with products and make-up I’ve tried that have somewhat helped. I’d like to end this post by saying something along the lines of we’re beautiful inside and out, stay strong – but, I’m a typical reserved Brit, so to anyone struggling with acne or battling Roaccutane, chin up and keep positive, fingers crossed it’ll all be worth it in the end.