A versatile medication – Retin-A
Retin-A is a medication which is in fact an acid form of Vitamin A, and it is also called all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA for short). It may seem strange, but Retin-A is used for the treatment of two very different conditions, one being the acne vulgaris and the other being acute promyelocytic leukemia, or APL for short.
Acne vulgaris is in fact the condition that we most commonly call simply acne, which is characterized by certain areas of skin which are red and scaly (seborrhea), blackheads and whiteheads (comedones), pinheads (papules), pimples (pustules), large papules (nodules), as well as scarring. Scarring is the only long-term symptom of acne and the most significant when purely physical aspect of the acne is regarded. However, acne are more of a sociological and psychological problem as they usually affect adolescents in puberty (due to the increase in testosterone levels) who are very sensitive to how they look and how the people around them perceive them. In some cases, acne can cause serious social and psychological issues, such as depression and reduced self-esteem. In most cases, acne clear up sometime in the early twenties, but there are people for whom the acne last for much longer. In order to avoid these social and psychological effects of acne, it is best to treat them early and quite aggressively and Retin-A is one of the most commonly used medications for this purpose. Another condition similar to acne is keratosis pilaris and it can also be treated with Retin-A. For this use, Retin-A is also available in form of a gel or cream.
The other use for Retin-A is in treatment of acute promyelocytic leukemia, a very serious condition, which is in fact cancer of blood or bone marrow. In the interval between the 1950s when it was discovered and 1970s, APL was lethal in 100% of cases, until some medications were developed which are able to help in treatment of this severe disease. Retin-A is used in combination with other medications in cases of APL, benefiting the patients by driving the immature blood cells to mature blood cells, thus preventing the onset of APL, which is believed to be caused by the block of this differentiation (maturing).
However, Retin-A is still much more commonly used for treatment of acne.
Using Retin-A the proper way
If you wish to ensure that your Retin-A treatment will benefit you as much as possible, you need to adhere to the recommendations of your health care provider. If you increase the dosage of Retin-A, you will not experience any more beneficial effects of Retin-A and you will only increase the risk of experiencing side effects. Before you apply Retin-A, you need to wash and dry the area which is affected by acne and where you intend to apply Retin-A. After administering Retin-A, refrain from washing or wiping the area for at least one hour. In some cases, it can take Retin-A quite some time to start working and you should not discontinue the use of the medication without consulting your doctor.