Acne is the result of overactive oil glands at the base of hair follicles, which are a cause of hormonal changes during adolescence. Oily skin can be hereditary, which increases the sensitivity of the skin to hormonal changes. Skin cells can "plug" skin pores causing "whiteheads" and, with pigment, "Blackheads". A "pimple" is an oil gland that is infected with bacteria, resulting in an inflamed area with pus formation.
Alternative Names of Acne are: Pimples
Complications of Acne
Acne scarring: Acne scarring can sometimes develop as a complication of acne when the most serious types of spots - nodules and cysts - rupture (burst) damaging nearby skin. Scarring can also occur if you pick or squeeze your spots, so it is important to avoid doing this.
There are three main types of acne scars:
Causes of Acne
To better understand the causes of acne, it is useful to learn more about the sebaceous glands, which play a key role in the condition's development.
The triggers of acne
Cases of teenage acne are thought to be triggered by increased levels of a hormone called testosterone that occurs during puberty. The hormone plays an important role in stimulating the growth and the development of the penis and testicles in boys, and maintaining muscle and bone strength in girls. The sebaceous glands are particularly sensitive to hormones, so it is thought that the increased testosterone causes the glands to produce much more sebum than the skin actually needs.
In cases of adult acne, over 80% of cases occur in women. It is thought that many cases of adult acne are a result of the changes in hormone levels that many women will experience at certain points during their life. Possible triggers for adult acne include:
Signs & Symptoms of Acne
If you are suffering from acne, you probably do not need me to tell you about the symptoms, but for those who are reading this for other reasons, here is a summary of the physical symptoms:
Diagnosis of Acne
Acne is classified as mild, moderate or severe. The severities are described below:
Treatments of Acne
Your recommended treatment plan will depend on whether your acne is mild, moderate or severe.
Mild acne is treated using gels or creams (topical treatments) such as:
Moderate acne is usually treated using a combination of the medications that are mentioned above. In some cases, antibiotic tablets (oral antibiotics) may also be used. If you have severe acne, you will usually be referred to a dermatologist (an expert in treating skin conditions).
Prevention of Acne
Acne is not infectious and it is not caused by poor hygiene. However, a build-up of sebum (an oily substance that stops hair and skin drying out) and dead cells on the skin surface may increase the risk of blocked follicles and allow bacteria to multiply. You can help prevent this by washing your face with a gentle cleansing product. If you are wearing any make-up, make sure you wash it off before you go to bed. There is no evidence that wearing make-up causes spots but the less you touch your skin, the fewer bacteria will be spread on your skin. To prevent the spread of bacteria, wash your hands before touching your face (for example to apply make-up). A good balanced diet is, however, important in keeping you healthy.
When to seek Medical Advice
Although acne is rarely a serious medical condition, when outbreaks are severe it can cause emotional distress especially when the acne problem extends into young adulthood. If not treated properly, permanent scarring of the skin may result. This is the time when professional medical advice is needed and prudent.