Can Accutane cause diabetes? (+3 factors)

In this article, we will discuss whether Accutane causes diabetes in the patients taking it or not, what is the link between Accutane and diabetes, what factors contribute to Accutane-induced diabetes and what to do if Accutane causes diabetes.

Can Accutane cause diabetes?

Yes, Accutane can cause diabetes. A definite causal link between Accutane and diabetes has not been established yet. However, some studies show that Accutane can cause blood sugar problems in patients taking it. These conditions may include new-onset diabetes or a worsening of the condition if the patient already has diabetes. 

Accutane is the brand name of the drug called isotretinoin. It is the derivative of vitamin A and belongs to the class of retinoids. Accutane works by shrinking the oil glands of the skin, reducing the production of oil and preventing the acne-causing bacteria from thriving on the skin. It is used for the treatment of acne (1). 

If you are taking Accutane for acne and have concerns regarding the side effects of Accutane then you need to consult your healthcare provider. They can help you to determine the potential side effects Accutane might have on you. 

What is the link between Accutane and diabetes?

The exact link between Accutane and diabetes is not fully understood but the researchers have proposed several possible links between Accutane and diabetes. Isotretinoin is found to have its effects on the insulin signalling pathways. These effects may make the cells less responsive to the actions of insulin leading to diabetes (2).

The reduced insulin sensitivity may cause high blood sugar levels causing an increased risk of type-2 diabetes.

Some research studies have also shown the effect of isotretinoin on the beta cells of the pancreas. These cells are responsible for the production of insulin in the body. Affected beta cells may impair the secretion of insulin which may also contribute to the onset of diabetes (3). 

Isotretinoin can lead to low-grade systemic inflammation. This low-grade systemic inflammation has been found to be a risk factor for insulin resistance in the body as well as type-2  diabetes. The inflammation can exacerbate the negative effects on insulin function and resistance (4). 

What factors contribute to Accutane-induced diabetes?

Accutane-induced diabetes can be affected by the following factors. 

Dosage regimen

Increased doses and duration of Accutane may contribute to the increased risk of diabetes caused by Accutane. Higher doses not only increase the therapeutic effects in some areas but also increase the incidence, severity and frequency of adverse effects caused by Accutane.

Individual metabolic variation

Individual sensitivity plays a crucial role in the effect of Accutane particularly in case of increased risk of diabetes. The effects of Accutane differ among different individuals. The variation can be attributed to differences in metabolic rate and genetic predisposition. 

Accutane can have varied effects on glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity that may result in the variation of side effects in different individuals. 

Genetic predisposition is also an essential part of individual sensitivity. The genetic makeup of a body decides and influences the effects of medication on the individual. Certain genetic variations can make a person more susceptible to encountering changes in their metabolic pathways leading them towards diabetes (5). 

Underlying health conditions

If you are taking Accutane for acne and are a patient with one of these medical health conditions then you may be more likely to develop diabetes.

  • Obesity
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Pre-diabetes
  • Insulin resistance

Due to drug-disease interaction, you may be observed diabetic condition after starting Accutane.

Life style

Sedentary lifestyles are the major factors for Accutane-induced diabetes.  Unhealthy life choices like poor diet, physical inactivity, excessive stress and excessive smoking can increase the risk of Accutane-induced diabetes in patients taking Accutane for the treatment of acne (6). 

What to do if Accutane causes diabetes?

If you are experiencing diabetic symptoms such as increased thirst, increased hunger and increased urination after taking Accutane, then you need to consult your healthcare provider. 

Consulting healthcare provider

Your healthcare provider will evaluate your condition, determine your blood glucose levels, perform the necessary tests and determine the severity of your condition. After a careful evaluation and examination, your doctor may modify your treatment regimen.

Lowering the dose of Accutane can be a necessary change. While awaiting the medical advice discontinue Accutane to prevent any serious complications. You may be prescribed medications that can help you with your condition. These may include (7):

  • Subcutaneous Insulin injections
  • Metformin
  • Sulfonylurea
  • Dipeptidyl-peptidase-4
  • Sodium-glucose cotransporter-2 inhibitors

Alternatives to Accutane

In case of a diagnosis of diabetes caused by Accutane, your doctor will help you explore alternative medications to treat acne that are less likely to cause or worsen the condition of diabetes. Alternative medications may include (8):

  • Topical retinoids
  • Oral antibiotics such as mupirocin
  • Spironolactone
  • Chemical peels
  • Laser or light therapy

In my opinion, Accutane can cause diabetes in some patients. You need to consult your healthcare provider before starting the treatment of your acne with Accutane. You should discuss your individual susceptibility to experiencing diabetes after starting the treatment with Accutane. 

Not every individual will experience the same effects of medication due to various factors contributing to Accutane-induced diabetes. Do not hesitate to ask your doctor regarding any concerns you have about your treatment plan. 



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Soyuduru, G., Ösoy Adışen, E., Kadıoğlu Özer, İ., & Aksakal, A. B. (2019). The effect of isotretinoin on insulin resistance and adipocytokine levels in acne vulgaris patients. Turkish journal of medical sciences, 49(1), 238–244.


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