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What Is Alitretinoin?

By Meshell Powell
Updated May 17, 2024
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Alitretinoin is a prescription medication used to treat a type of cancer known as Kaposi's sarcoma. This form of cancer is a potential complication of AIDS, although it may occasionally develop in patients who are not infected with the HIV virus. Packaged as a topical medication, alitretinoin may sometimes be used to treat other medical conditions, such as acne or eczema. Side effects of this drug may include skin irritation, increased sensitivity to sunlight, or allergic reactions. Any specific questions or concerns about the use of alitretinoin in an individual situation should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional.

Kaposi's sarcoma is the primary condition treated with the use of alitretinoin. This type of cancer causes purple or red patches to develop just under the skin of the affected area. Cancerous cells can then spread into the various organs of the body and cause potentially fatal complications. The use of alitretinoin is often successful in slowing or stopping the growth of these cancer cells.

While alitretinoin has not been officially approved for use in conditions such as eczema or acne, some doctors may prescribe this this drug for these conditions, especially if other methods of treatment have not been successful. It is important to use this medication exactly as prescribed by a doctor or as advised by a pharmacist. Any new or bothersome symptoms that develop after beginning treatment with this product should be reported to a doctor for further evaluation.

Skin irritation is the most frequently reported side effect of alitretinoin. Redness, itching, or mild discomfort are common, although severe symptoms may include intense pain or the appearance of blisters at the application site. If the skin becomes painful and resembles a sunburn, the supervising physician should be notified right away. Patients who are using this medication should avoid direct exposure to sunlight whenever possible due to the potential complications that can develop.

Some people may develop an allergy to alitretinoin. Mild allergy symptoms may involve itching and the appearance of a rash or hives. Anaphylaxis is the name given to a potentially fatal type of allergic reaction that may occur after using this drug, even if the medication has been well tolerated in the past. Symptoms such as facial swelling, difficulty breathing, or trouble swallowing should be treated as a medical emergency, as this type of reaction can cause death within a matter of minutes.

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