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Acne - Diagnosis, Symptoms and Treatments


What is Acne?

Acne is defined as a skin disorder, which presents itself when follicles of hair become imbedded with dead skin cells and oils. Acne generally shows up in the face, chest, neck, shoulders and back and may become chronic. Lesions that are left as a result of acne tend to heal in a slow manner. Usually as one set of lesions heal, another set shows up. Depending on how severe your case is, emotional distress can be the cause of acne outbreaks and skin scarring. Fortunately treatment is available. The sooner you start a treatment regimen, the less chance you have for acne to lead to scarring of the skin.

Symptoms of Acne:

Non-inflammatory lesions

  • Comedones (blackheads and whiteheads) form when the hair follicle openings are blocked with secretions of oil, bacteria and even dead skin cells. Whenever comedones (koe-muh-DOE-neez) open on the surface of the skin, they are referred to as blackheads because they are dark in appearance. When comedones close, they’re referred to as whiteheads.

Inflammatory lesions

  • Papules are tiny bumps that are raised on the skin and are usually tender and red in color.
  • Pustules (pimples) that are tender and red and they have pus inside.
  • Nodules are large bumps underneath the skins surface that can be painful.
  • Cysts are pus-filled, bumps which are painful and cause scarring.

What causes Acne?

There are three primary factors that contribute to the cause of acne:

  • Excess oil production (sebum)
  • Irritation of skin follicles caused by the shedding of dead skin cells.
  • Bacteria buildup

An existing case of acne can be aggravated by the following factors:

  • Hormones. Hormones that increase in girls and boys when they reach puberty are Androgens. Androgens cause the sebaceous glands to grow and produce more sebum.
  • Diet. Research shows that carbohydrates and dairy foods can trigger acne in some individuals.

Treatment of Acne

Acne medications help to lower the production of oil. Prescription medications will not produce results for up to eight weeks and you may notice that the skin condition to worsen before you see significant signs of improvement.

Your dermatologist will usually prescribe a topical medication in addition to an oral medication to address severe acne outbreaks.

Types of acne treatments include:

  • Non-prescription topical treatments. Excess oil will normally dissipate when using acne lotions. These medications tend to contain benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid and sulfur and are gentle on the skin.
  • Prescription topical treatments. These kinds of medications must be secured from your physician.
  • Antibiotics. Some individuals need a course of antibiotics to kill bacteria and attack inflammation. Research shows the oral antibiotics in addition to a topical benzoyl peroxide solution have proven highly effective in addressing acne flare-ups.
  • Oral contraceptives. Oral contraceptives can work to improve acne in women specifically. They can cause side effects such as tenderness of the breasts, headaches, depression and nausea, however. If you experience any of these symptoms you should consult your physician. Oral contraceptives can cause high blood pressure and blood clots. You should speak with your physician to be sure that this is a good treatment option for you.
  • Cosmetic procedures. Micro-dermabrasion and chemical peels are a good source for controlling acne. In the past, these procedures have been used to reduce the appearance of fine lines and scars in the face; however, more recently, these treatments have been used to successfully address acne outbreaks. Side effects of this processes can include skin redness, blistering, scaling, and in some cases, discoloration of the skin.

Preventing Acne

When acne starts to improve, you should continue with your current treatment in an effort to prevent future breakouts.

Other acne-prevention tips include:

  • Wash areas that are prone to acne breakouts twice daily. Washing removes excess oil and dead skin cells; however, too much washing can irritate the skin. Wash areas with a gentle cleanser and use oil-free, water-based skin care products.
  • Use an over-the-counter acne cream or gel. Look for products containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid as the active ingredient.
  • Avoid heavy makeup. Choose powder cosmetics over cream products because they’re less irritating and do not cause as much pore blockage.
  • Remove makeup prior to going to bed. Going to sleep with cosmetics on your skin can clog tiny openings of the hair follicles (pores). Also, be sure to throw out old makeup and clean your cosmetic brushes and applicators regularly with soapy water.
  • Avoid tight fitting clothing. Clothes that are tight fitting tend to lock in moisture and heat, which can lead to irritation of your skin.
  • Shower after exercising. Sweat and oil that is built up on your skin will be trapped in bacteria and dirt.