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Acitretin is used in the treatment of psoriasis (silvery scaly skin rash)

How it works

Acitretin belongs to a class of medications called retinoids, a form of Vitamin A.  Acitretin works by inhibiting the excessive cell growth and keratinisation (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 effects

Burning sensation, Erythema, Stinging sensation, Skin peeling

Available Medicine

Expert advice

  • 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 child-bearing 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 troubles 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.

Frequently asked questions


Q. Is acitretin a steroid?
No acitretin is not a steroid

Q. Is it safe?
It is safe when used at the recommended dose and duration as advised by the doctor

Q. What is acitretin?
Acitretin belongs to a class of medications called retinoids.It is used in the treatment of serious skin disorders such as severe psoriasis (dry, scaly, wax-like skin rash). It is also used to treat keratin deposition on skin (ichthyosis), skin rash (pityriasis) or small elevations of skin and mucosa (lichen ruber)

Q. Is it effective?
It is effective when used at the recommended dose and duration as advised by the doctor

Q. Can I take paracetamol or ibuprofen with acitretin?
There is no known adverse effect of taking paracetamol or ibuprofen with acitretin. Please follow the advice of your doctor on the same

Q. Does acitretin cause weight gain or affect sperm?
No there are no known effects of acitretin on weight gain and sperms. Please consult your doctor immediately if any side effects are observed while on this therapy

Q. How fast does acitretin work and how long is it available in the body?
Acitretin may seem to worsen symptoms at the start but should be effective during the course of the therapy. Continue to use as per doctor's recommendations. Acitretin should be cleared from the body within 36 days post the last dose.

Content on this page was last updated on 18 January, 2017, by Dr. Varun Gupta (MD Pharmacology)