What is Acne?

Acne is a condition in which pimples appear on the face, chest or back. It is most prevalent in teenagers on the forehead, nose and chin and is caused by an overproduction of sebum. Sebum is an oily substance that will form in the glands under the surface of the skin, or sebaceous glands. If the hair follicles become blocked by sebum, dead skin cells and bacteria – acne is the result. Acne affects nearly 17 million people in the U.S., making it the most common skin disease. It typically begins at puberty and can worsen during adolescence. Close to 85% develop acne between the ages of 12 and 25, while acne can appear as early as 10 years old. Some people may be affected after the age of 30, and some newborns have been found to have acne.

Puberty increases levels of the male hormone – androgen – which can cause excess sebum to form. Excess sebum combined with dead skin cells and bacteria can allow growth in the plugged follicles and when this happens, a hard plug can form (called a comedo). A comedo is an enlarged hair follicle that can take many different forms, including:

  • Blackheads – a comedo that reaches the skin’s surface and appears black in color
  • Whiteheads – a comedo that is sealed by keratin and looks like a white bump

Pimples can also form on the skin and can include:

  • Papules – small, red bumps that are tender to the touch
  • Pustules – pus-filled lesions that are red at the base
  • Nodules – large lesions that are painful and deep in the skin
  • Cysts – pus-filled lesions that are painful and deep in the skin that can cause scarring

Causes

The exact cause is unknown; however, there are many risk factors that are more likely to make acne occur:

  • Age
  • Hormonal disorders
  • Hormonal changes
  • Heredity
  • Drugs – including steroids, oral contraceptives, antibiotics, antidepressants, and others.
  • Cosmetics
  • Environmental irritants – air pollution, high humidity, greasy environments, etc.
  • Friction
  • Personal hygiene

When to Call the Doctor

A healthcare provider should be contacted under the following circumstances:

  • Nodules or cysts are present and painful
  • Over-the-counter medication has not been effective
  • Lesions are causing scarring
  • There is dark skin or darker patches when the lesions heal
  • It is causing embarrassment, self-consciousness or emotional distress

Acne treatment consists of reducing sebum production, the removal of dead skin cells, and killing of bacteria in the skin. Oral medication or topical medication may be used based on the severity of the condition.

Call to schedule your appointment with us to see which treatment is best for you.