Acne: A Survival Guide
Acne vulgaris is a skin disease that usually strikes during adolescence due to hormonal changes in the maturing bodies of teenagers- both male and female. It is thought genetics causes acne in 80% of people with acne. Acne is a long-term disease when dead skin cells and oil from the skin clog the hair follicles. Blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, and greasy skin, are all results of acne, which may also cause scarring.
The more severe cases of acne can induce anxiety, reduced self-esteem and, in extreme cases, depression or thoughts of suicide in teenagers and adults with acne. While most acne clears up after 17 years to 19 years of age, some people may suffer into their mid-20s and into their 40s.
What Causes Pimples?
Male hormones such as testosterone (androgens) increase in girls and boys during puberty, stimulating the sebaceous (oil) glands to produce more sebum (oil). The oil glands are extremely sensitive to androgens in some teenagers, usually boys, causing them to seek medical treatment. Propionebacterium acnes, a common bacterium on the skin feeds on sebum producing waste products and fatty acids that aggravate the sebaceous glands, inflaming them.
The skin of the face, upper part of the chest, and back has a greater number of oil glands and therefore are usually the most affected.
Adolescence in teenagers, and pregnancy or menstrual periods in women may contribute to acne due to hormonal changes at these times. Pollution, humidity, cold, and heat may also be environmental irritants that cause pimples.
Types of Acne
Fewer than 20 whiteheads or blackheads, fewer than 15 inflamed bumps, or fewer than 30 total lesions.
Up to 100 whiteheads or blackheads, up to 50 inflamed bumps, or fewer than 125 total lesions. It is advisable to see a dermatologist who'll prescribe medication for moderate to severe acne.
Severe Nodulocystic Acne
Presence of numerous inflamed cysts and nodules is termed Severe Nodulocystic Acne. It may turn deep red or purple and leave scars. Consult a dermatologist immediately to minimize scarring. Injecting corticosteroids directly into nodules and cysts may sometimes reduce the size of the painful inflammation.
One of the most severe forms of acne Acne Conglobata affects the neck, chest, arms, and buttocks. People develop numerous inflamed nodules that interconnected to each other under the skin, leaving scars. More common in men, this type of acne is sometimes caused by taking steroids or testosterone. Don't put off seeing a dermatologist if your acne is severe.
Dermatologists often recommend topical azelaic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and salicylic acid.
Benzoyl peroxide is available both as an over-the-counter product and by prescription. It eliminates surface bacteria, which often aggravate acne. Dry skin is a common side effect.
Azelaic acid treats comedonal acne and inflammatory acne, and is effective on mild to moderate acne. As it can reduce inflammation, Azelaic acid is also used as a topical gel treatment for rosacea, another skin condition that looks similar to acne.
Retinoids (vitamin A derivatives), for example, Retin-A, Differin, Tazorac, treat blackheads and whiteheads, the first lesions of acne. The most common side effect is irritation.
Salicyclic acid causes the epidermal cells to shed more readily, opening clogged pores and defusing bacteria within, stopping pores from clogging up again by narrowing pore diameter, allowing new cells to grow.
Antibiotics are either applied on the skin (topically) or taken orally. They control surface bacteria and reduce skin inflammation. They are more effective when used along with benzoyl peroxide or retinoids. Clindamycin, tetracycline and its derivatives are some antibiotics prescribed for acne treatment.
Dermatologists also recommend lifestyle changes such as eating fewer simple carbohydrates like sugar.