Acne

acne

Acne is a common condition that causes blocked pores, pimples, cysts and other lesions on the skin of the face, neck, chest, back, shoulders and upper arms. Although teenagers are often affected, adults of any age can suffer from acne. Acne is not life-threatening, but can lead to physical disfigurement and emotional distress. There are several effective treatment methods that improve the skin's appearance and prevent future breakouts.

Causes of Acne

Acne develops when pores become clogged, either from an overproduction of oil, a buildup of bacteria or a shedding of dead skin cells. When oil, bacteria or dead skin cells build up in the hair follicle, they form a soft plug that forces the follicle wall to bulge and protrude from the skin, causing a lesion. The cause of excess oil production is unknown, but is believed to involve a combination of several factors, including hormones, bacteria, heredity and, in some cases, the use of certain medications. Contrary to popular belief, chocolate, greasy foods and dirty skin do not cause acne.

In the first few months of life, some infants have acne. This is a common condition caused by exposure to maternal hormones in the womb; it clears up on its own within a few weeks or months.

Symptoms of Acne

Although they can appear anywhere, symptoms of acne usually appear on the face, neck, shoulders, back or chest. Symptoms of acne may include the following:

  • Blackheads
  • Whiteheads
  • Cysts
  • Nodules
  • Pustules
  • Redness
  • Swelling

These symptoms can come and go, and may flare up at certain times as a result of hormonal or environmental triggers such as pregnancy, menstrual periods, high levels of humidity, using oily cosmetics or hair products, and taking certain medications. Severe cases of acne may cause scarring, which can have a damaging emotional effect on the sufferer. If acne symptoms do not respond to over-the-counter treatments, or if scarring develops as the acne clears up, a dermatologist should be consulted.

Acne Treatments

Treatment methods for acne aim to reduce oil production and increase the speed of skin-cell turnover to prevent new blemishes from developing. Acne treatment also focuses on reducing inflammation to help treat current symptoms. Treatment may include a combination of topical creams and ointments, and prescription medications that include antibiotics and oral contraceptives.

Topical Treatments

Topical creams and ointments applied to the affected area are often the first form of treatment used to treat acne. Over-the-counter creams and ointments, which are used to treat mild forms of acne, may contain benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid or lactic acid as their active ingredient. Prescription topical treatments may contain higher concentrations of these active ingredients, as well as retinoic or azelaic acid.

Oral Prescription Medications

Moderate cases of acne can often be treated with prescription oral antibiotics, which reduce bacteria and inflammation. They are often combined with topical treatments. Isotretinoin may be prescribed for severe cases of acne that do not respond to other treatment methods. In some cases, oral contraceptives are prescribed for women to treat moderate cases of acne.

Scar Treatment

Certain procedures may be recommended to treat scarring caused by acne. They include skin fillers, dermabrasion, microdermabrasion and laser treatment. Many patients experience effective results from these types of treatments, which help to smooth the skin and remove the scars created by severe acne.

It may take up to 8 weeks before results from treatment are apparent, and acne may get worse before getting better.

Preventing Acne

Although acne cannot always be prevented, there are certain ways to reduce the risk of breakouts. They include the following:

  • Avoiding heavy or oily cosmetics
  • Removing makeup before going to bed
  • Using mild cleansers
  • Avoiding sun exposure
  • Avoiding constant touching of the skin

Patients should also avoid picking or squeezing blemishes, and should be aware of anything that comes in contact with the affected area, because it may contain unwanted bacteria.

Acne FAQs

Acne is a common condition that causes blocked pores, pimples, cysts and other lesions on the skin of the face, neck, chest, back, shoulders and upper arms. There are several effective treatment methods available to help improve the appearance of the skin and prevent future acne breakouts.

Do only teenagers get acne?

Although teenagers often get acne, it can affect adults of any age.

Is acne dangerous?

Acne is not life-threatening, but it can cause physical disfigurement or scarring, and lead to emotional distress.

What causes acne?

Acne develops on the skin when the pores become clogged, which may occur as a result of an overproduction of oil, a buildup of bacteria or the shedding of dead skin cells. When these substances build up in the hair follicle, they form a soft plug that forces the follicle wall to bulge and protrude from the skin, causing a lesion to develop.

Can eating chocolate or greasy foods cause acne?

No; what a person eats does not cause acne.

What are the symptoms of acne?

Symptoms of acne can include blackheads, whiteheads, cysts, nodules, pustules, redness and swelling.

What are acne lesions?

Acne lesions are physical changes in the skin caused by a disease or bacteria affecting the sebaceous gland. Acne lesions range in severity from blackheads (comedones) to cysts.

Where do acne lesions usually appear?

Acne lesions are most common on the face and neck, where sebaceous glands are most dense, but they can also appear on the chest, back, shoulders, scalp, legs and upper arms.

Can picking at or opening up pimples make them better?

No; it can make them worse. Pimples should never be opened except by a dermatologist because of the risk of infection.

What are the different kinds of acne treatments?

Acne treatments vary depending on the type and severity of lesions, and the patient's skin type, age and lifestyle. Treatment options can include topical creams and ointments, and prescription oral antibiotics. To remove acne scarring, treatments such as dermabrasion or laser therapy may be recommended.

Schedule a Consultation

If you are looking for a treatment for acne, contact our office today by calling 813-877-4811. We will set up a consultation with one of our certified dermatologists to develop the proper treatment plan for your specific needs.

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