The association between isotretinoin administration and depression in acne patients remains controversial. We aim to estimate the prevalence of depression among patients with acne vulgaris before and after treatment with isotretinoin in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
This was a prospective study on patients attending the King Khalid University Hospital (KKUH), a tertiary institution, who were prescribed isotretinoin for the treatment of acne vulgaris for the first time. The Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) was used to screen for depressive symptoms.
A total of 179 patients were included in the study. The patients were then divided into two groups based on the treatment modality that they received: one group taking isotretinoin and the other treatment group who used other medications, including Retin-A (tretinoin) and Tazorac (tazarotene). A total of 119 patients were in the isotretinoin group with 91.6%, 2.5%, 1.7%, and 3.4% of those patients having a normal mood, mild depression, moderate depression, and severe depression scores before starting isotretinoin treatment, respectively. After three months of treatment, 94.1%, 1.7%, 0.8%, and 2.5% of patients had normal mood, mild depression, moderate depression, and severe depression, respectively. Meanwhile, after six months of treatment, 95.8%, 0.8%, 0%, and 1.7% of patients had normal mood, mild depression, moderate depression, and severe depression, respectively. The mean BDI score at the baseline was 3.31 ± 6.98 for isotretinoin and 3.17 ± 6.27 for other treatments. Compared to the baseline, patients using the isotretinoin showed a significant reduction in depression scores at three months (2.64 ± 6.17; p-value < 0.001), six months (1.99 ± 5.08; p-value < 0.001), and across all follow-up points (p-value < 0.001). Similar results were also estimated for the other treatment group, including Retin-A (tretinoin), adapalene, benzoyl peroxide, and doxycycline; however, no significant difference was noticed between the two groups (p-value = 0.885).
Isotretinoin treatment for acne does not appear to be associated with a statistically significant increased risk of depression in our population. Therefore, more studies are needed to understand this reflection in Saudi Arabia.