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UsesAcitretin is used to treat serious skin disorders such as severe psoriasis (dry, scaly, wax-like skin rash). It is also used to treat keratin deposition on the skin (ichthyosis), skin rash (pityriasis) or small elevations of skin and mucosa (lichen ruber).
How it worksAcitretin belongs to a class of medications called retinoids, a form of Vitamin A. Acitretin works by inhibiting the excessive cell growth and keratinisation (a process by which skin cells become thickened due to the deposition of a protein within them) seen in psoriasis. It, therefore, reduces the thickening of the skin, plaque formation, and scaling.
Common side effectsDryness of skin and mucus membranes, burning or sticky feeling on skin; changes in skin color; feeling cold or thirsty; inflammation in gums or mouth; changes in growth rate, texture, and color of hair; loss of hair; fragile nails and swelling in area surrounding nails; dry eyes and impaired or blurred vision; swelling in lips and nose; nose bleed; peeling of skin in hands; scaling and thinning of healthy skin with increased sensitivity; itching, reddening, inflammation of the eye.
- It is advisable to take this medication at the same time every day after a meal, preferably with milk or fatty food.
- It is necessary to inform your doctor if you have liver/kidney disease or suffer from high levels of cholesterol (hyperlipidemia).
- Do not donate blood if you are on this therapy and until 3 years after stopping this therapy. Women of childbearing age should not receive blood from any person who is on this therapy.
- If you suffer from diabetes, the blood sugar levels should be checked often if you take acitretin.
- Do not drink alcohol while on this therapy and for 2 months after stopping this therapy as it would increase the risk of side effects.
- Do not wear lenses or go out in strong sunlight while on this therapy.
- Inform your doctor immediately if you develop bone, joint or muscle pain or have trouble with moving.
- Women of child-bearing age, if on acitretin therapy, should practice 2 methods of contraception; and be sure to tell your doctor the medications that you use, and the doctor will tell you which methods are acceptable.
- You will need to take pregnancy tests regularly if you are on treatment with acitretin and for at least 3 years after you stop taking acitretin.