Acitretin and Fertility: What You Should KnowApr, 30 2023
Understanding Acitretin and Its Uses
Before delving into the relationship between acitretin and fertility, it's essential to understand what acitretin is and its primary uses. Acitretin is a medication that belongs to a class of drugs called retinoids, which are derived from vitamin A. It is primarily used to treat severe psoriasis, a skin condition characterized by red, scaly patches on the skin.
Although acitretin can be highly effective in treating psoriasis, it's not a cure, and the condition may return after the treatment is stopped. It works by regulating the growth and development of skin cells, which helps to reduce the symptoms of psoriasis. It may also be used in combination with other treatments, such as light therapy or topical medications, to improve their effectiveness.
Acitretin's Impact on Fertility in Men and Women
Acitretin can have different effects on fertility for men and women. In men, studies have shown that acitretin does not appear to have a significant impact on male fertility. However, men taking this medication should still exercise caution, as it can cause harm to a developing fetus if their partner becomes pregnant.
On the other hand, women must be more cautious when using acitretin. The medication is known to cause severe birth defects and should not be taken during pregnancy or if there is a possibility of becoming pregnant. Women of childbearing age who are prescribed acitretin must use effective contraception during treatment and for at least three years after stopping the medication.
Contraceptive Measures While Taking Acitretin
Given the potential risks associated with acitretin and pregnancy, it's crucial for women to take appropriate contraceptive measures while on the medication. If you're a woman of childbearing age and are considering taking acitretin or are already using it, you should discuss your contraceptive options with your healthcare provider.
Some of the most effective contraceptive methods include hormonal birth control, such as the pill, patch, or intrauterine device (IUD). Barrier methods, such as condoms or diaphragms, may also be used in combination with hormonal contraceptives for added protection. It's essential to remember that acitretin can remain in your system for an extended period, so continue using contraception for at least three years after stopping the medication.
Monitoring Your Fertility While on Acitretin
If you're taking acitretin and are concerned about your fertility, it's essential to have regular check-ups with your healthcare provider. They can monitor your fertility levels and ensure that you're using the most effective contraceptive methods while on the medication.
For women, your doctor may recommend regular pregnancy tests to ensure that you're not pregnant while taking acitretin. If you become pregnant while on the medication or within three years of stopping it, you must notify your healthcare provider immediately, as the risks to the developing fetus are significant.
Considering Acitretin Alternatives for Psoriasis Treatment
If you're concerned about the potential impact of acitretin on your fertility, it's essential to discuss these concerns with your healthcare provider. They can help you weigh the risks and benefits of using acitretin and may suggest alternative treatments for your psoriasis if appropriate.
Some possible alternatives to acitretin include other oral medications, such as methotrexate or cyclosporine, or biologic therapies, such as adalimumab or ustekinumab. These options may have different side effects and potential risks, so it's crucial to work closely with your healthcare provider to determine the best treatment plan for your unique situation.
Planning for Pregnancy After Acitretin Treatment
If you're planning to become pregnant after completing acitretin treatment, it's essential to wait at least three years before trying to conceive. This waiting period allows the medication to be fully eliminated from your system, reducing the risk of birth defects to your future child.
During this time, you should continue using effective contraception and work closely with your healthcare provider to monitor your fertility and overall health. Once the three-year waiting period has passed, and your healthcare provider has given you the green light, you can begin trying to conceive. Keep in mind that it may take some time to become pregnant, and you may need to work with a fertility specialist to achieve a healthy pregnancy.