Acne: Treatment, Types, Causes
Synopsis: The article provides information on the various causes and types of acne. Includes instructions and methods for getting rid of body and facial pimples on teens and adults. Acne vulgaris (acne) is the commonly used name for pores clogged by sebum (also known as whiteheads and blackheads), pimples, nodules, or cysts that can appear on the face, neck, shoulders, chest, back, upper arms and upper legs. Most teenagers and a good number of adults suffer from acne for more or less extended periods of time. The condition is not confined to any age group, race, or sex. It affects hundreds of millions of people across the world.
What is Acne?
Acne vulgaris (acne) is the commonly used name for pores clogged by sebum (also known as whiteheads and blackheads), pimples, nodules, or cysts that can appear on the face, neck, shoulders, chest, back, upper arms and upper legs. The resulting appearance may lead to anxiety, reduced self-esteem, and in extreme cases, depression, or thoughts of suicide.
Most teenagers and a good number of adults suffer from acne for more or less extended periods of time. The condition is not confined to any age group, race, or sex. It affects hundreds of millions of people across the world. The biggest problems with acne are the unpleasant look of pimples and the scars they may leave behind.
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Types of Acne
Although pimples are by far the most common form of acne and the one most people are likely to encounter or suffer from, you should know that there are other forms as well. The simplest form is acne vulgaris, which features only comedones, the simplest of lesions. Other types of acne include:
- Lesions: Small patches of skin impacted by acne, although the term "lesion" is not restricted to the changes produced by acne in skin tissues. Acne lesions are the external form of comedones, the sebaceous follicles plugged by excess sebum.
- Comedones: Known as blackheads and whiteheads, depending on whether the pore is open or not. Blackheads are pores whose distended openings are blocked by a mixture of keratin and sebum that is blackened at the surface. Whiteheads are closed pores filled with the secretion of the sebaceous gland that swells underneath the tissue. Comendones are the usual target for picking and squeezing. However, opening a follicle in the less than sterile conditions of your home is likely to result in a slight infection. An open pore is an entry point for all kinds of bacteria.
- Papules: The papule is a small, solid, usually inflammatory elevation of the skin that does not contain pus. Small papules can also appear in clusters, due to the tissue's response to acne.
- Pustules: Pustules are small inflamed elevations of the skin that are filled with pus. The pus is a combination of bacteria, white blood cells and dead skin cells. Pustules are typically formed around sebaceous follicles and hair.
- Maculae: A macula is a red spot on the skin left behind by an acne lesion. Maculae are flat, red and stand out against the surrounding skin. A group of maculae gives the face an inflamed aspect.
- Nodules: The nodule is a solid lesion, one of the most painful lesions caused by acne. Nodules tend to extend into the deeper layers of the skin and are known to lead to tissue destruction. They can be very painful to remove and leave scars behind. Nodular acne is a severe form of acne that is treated only with isotretinonin.
- Cysts: Cysts are lesions shaped like capsules and contain liquid or semi-liquid pus similar to that found in pustules. However, cysts are larger than pustules and can be infected. Cysts are also extending deeper into the skin and leave scar tissue behind. Nodulocystic acne is probably the worst type of acne known to man. It is resistant to treatment and responds only to isotretinoin, the substance obtained from vitamin A.
Who Gets Acne?
Believe it or not, nearly everybody in the world gets pimples. When the body shifts into higher gear and puberty begins at the age of 12, hormones start taking over. It doesn't matter whether you're a man or a woman. It doesn't matter where you come from and who your parents were. I have never heard of a person who had stayed blemish-free in all the years of his or her life. Whether it's food or pollution, something is bound to upset your hormonal balance eventually.
More than 40 percent of all teens develop cases of acne severe enough to warrant medical treatment. Most cases are usually solved without the need for fancy treatments, although more than one trip to the doctor is required. However, modern medicine has produced a wide range of prescription and over-the-counter products to help people deal with their acne without unnecessary pain.
However, not all acne cases can be treated quite that easily. Acne comes and goes on its own, between the age of twelve and twenty-three, but some people develop severe forms of acne, while others get acne for the first time as adults. This is mostly the case for men. Because of the higher level of androgens, (A group of hormones that play a role in male traits and reproductive activity), in their systems, men are far more likely than women to suffer from acne. In women, acne is associated with their fertility cycle and the hormonal changes it entails.
While most cases of acne are confined to the facial skin, most of the people suffering from this condition experience at least the occasional blackhead or pimple down the arms, on the back, the chest, or even on the buttocks.
The social impact of acne is huge. The unpleasant sight of pimples makes many people run to the near drugstore or pharmacy because of the perceived influence acne has in social relations. Every year, hundreds of millions of dollars are spent every year around the world on anti-acne products by people on five continents.
Acne is a common skin condition featuring pimples outbreaks on the body and facial skin. Many people develop acne on the chest, shoulders and back, which can sometimes be the first inkling to the emergence of more severe forms of acne. The severe forms of acne are painful and can only be treated with drugs under the supervision of a dermatologist.
People suffering from mild or moderate body acne could try treatments such as the Clear Pores System. Hard to treat cases are better left to a dermatologist's skills. The best way to treat acne is to cleanse the skin with a solution containing Salicylic Acid and SD Alcohol 40. The Clear Pores body and face washes contain these two ingredients, which are accompanied by the well-known Aloe Vera to soothe the skin and help the healing process, Dandelion Root and Yellow Dock.
Despite recent scientific investigations, researchers are still in the dark about what causes body acne. Your best option is to avoid anything that could cause or worsen your acne. Keep your facial and body skin clean every day, and be careful not to trigger acne or rashes by wearing very tight clothing or heavy backpacks. If you feel your clothing, backpack or purse is causing your skin problems, then start thinking about alternatives.
Neck acne is known among professionals as a difficult proposition. The skin on your neck is one of the most sensitive areas of your body. It needs more moisturizing and care from you than, say, your back skin.
Women and Acne
Men and women are entirely unique creatures when it comes to hormones and the entire system of psychological and physical effects deriving from it. One good example for this statement is acne. The accelerated hormonal development in boys almost always results in acne, but this is not the case for girls. Women often develop acne for the first time in their 20s, or even later.
Of course, the fertility cycle and the hormonal changes it triggers throughout the body is often the cause of sporadic acne outbreaks in women, although the exact process is poorly understood at this moment. High levels of androgens are the likely cause for premenstrual acne, since it is known that androgens regulate the oil production in sebaceous glands. The more androgens around, the higher the risk of clogging pores with excess sebum.
Women have less chance of developing the kind of acne that plagues men, but they also have a harder time getting rid of it. During pregnancy, women suffering from acne must get by with topical treatments recommended by their doctor and are not allowed to use drugs. Birth control pills are a common way of treating acne, since they interfere precisely with the hormonal cycle and serve to rein in acne. However, the use of any kind of pills to treat acne should be supervised by a doctor.
Acne Scars or Pockmarks
Acne scars are the marks left behind by lesions that had not healed or had become inflamed. Their size, frequency, and type depend on various genetic factors, which are particular to every person. Some persons are more likely to see scars forming on their skin, due to their heritage and skin color. This is why many people want to make sure their lesions will heal properly.
There are only two types of acne scars:
- The simplest scar is nothing more than a spot of skin bearing a brown, pink or purple color, testimony to the fact that a pimple had been there.
- The second type is called the ice pick scar or pockmark, and it is a small hole in the skin where the lesion used to be.
Scars are usually left behind only by inflamed lesions, such as pustules, nodules, or cysts. However, squeezing open a comedo could result in an inflamed lesion and a scar.
Pigmented scars are the result of the skin's own process of rebuilding the natural color in the healing tissue. The concentration of pigment can be lowered with various types of treatments, such as bleaching creams, lotions, or laser surgery. The choice of over-the-counter products should depend on the type and severity of your acne. If you are not sure what to choose, talk to a dermatologist.
Mild acne scars take up to six weeks to vanish:
If the over-the-counter products don't work, talk to your doctor again and he or she will recommend you a stronger treatment for scars, possibly even creams based on retinoids. This is done to prevent acne flare-ups and to promote the shedding of skin cells in and around the scars.
The next level in acne scar treatment is the chemical peeling of your skin. lycolic, salicylic or lactic acid is used to peel away the damaged top layer of the skin and trigger the formation of a new and smoother layer. This procedure can be beneficial even for active acne. Peels are usually performed over a period of weeks or months and are mostly effective against pigmented scars.
The second type of acne scars is more commonly treated with dermabrasion or laser resurfacing. Dermabrasion means that the top layer of the skin is removed thanks to a high-speed rotary wire brush or diamond-coated stone. This procedure requires more than one session for each scar and has the downside of not removing the scar at all. It simply makes it less visible.
A better treatment for scars is the laser resurfacing of the skin. Similar to the effect of sun exposure, doctors use the concentrated light of the laser beam to burn off a smaller or bigger part of the top layer of the skin. Many dermatologists and cosmetic surgeons recommend this procedure over dermabrasion.
Skin Care Tips for People Suffering from Acne
The first thing to remember is that you have to be gentle with your face. Don't wash your face with hot or cold water. Use lukewarm water and a mild cleanser twice a day and after your workout at the gym, in case you do work out. Avoid regular soap and other such products that are filled with harsh chemicals. If you are not familiar with cleansers, ask a doctor for advice.
Wash your face gently and rinse thoroughly. Pad your face dry and avoid scrubbing. Scrubbing could open a thousand invisible lesions in your skin that are the perfect breeding grounds for bacteria.
Keep Your Hands Away from Your Skin
Although it is against your instincts, you must learn to keep your hands away from pimples and other lesions. Squeezing pimples is a bad idea, unless performed under sterile conditions by a doctor.
Acne Tips for Males
If you have to shave, then be cautious about it. Run a test on yourself and see which type of razor is better for you. I'd say that electric razors are the thing to use if you suffer from acne, but each man knows better what works in his case. Shave gently and avoid opening up existing lesions.
For the Girls
Cosmetics are one of the minor roots of acne. If you're going through an acne treatment, then choose only oil-free cosmetics, or else the good effect is wasted. You should also run tests on yourself and see which cosmetics do not clog your pores. Watch out for side effects if you use products whose labels say "designed not to clog pores".
Stay out of the Sun
Yes, a suntan would look lovely on you, but you should learn to do without for a while. The risks of sun exposure are not acceptable when you realize that the sun does not cure acne. UV rays simply dry the outer layers of your skin and cause it to peel away. However, once you are away from the sun, acne will return. Prolonged exposure will also make you a certain candidate for skin cancer.
Treatment for Blackheads, Whiteheads, and Mild Cases of Acne
The usual treatment prescribed for mild cases of acne is topical medicine. The topical treatment is applied externally, directly on the affected skin surface or simply on each pimple. The common substances that make up topical treatments are:
Salicylic acid - alone or with SD Alcohol 40, the Salicylic Acid makes for a very effective treatment against blackheads and whiteheads. This acid also serves to decrease the shedding of cells around hair follicles, thus acting pre-emptively against one of the causes of acne.
- Benzoyl peroxide - effective against acne by reducing oil production.
- Resorcinol - good against acne
- Sulfur - wipes out blackheads and whiteheads.
The external application of topical treatments means that such substances come in many forms. Any drugstore or pharmacy is sure to have a wide range of anti-acne creams, gels, soaps, and lotions. Such products are effective against mild acne, but do require sustained use for several months.
In case you notice any unpleasant side effects when using topical treatments, you should pay a visit to a doctor as soon as possible. Side effects like irritation, swelling or burning are quite common, especially among people with delicate skins.
The Social Impact of Acne
Acne is one of the most troublesome conditions of our times. While most people suffering from acne do not experience any kind of physical discomfort, they make up for this by psychological scarring. This effect has not been studied because acne is a common, non-threatening condition that comes and goes on its own and any psychological effects attached to it were not seen as particularly important.
However, acne has a stronger than suspected impact on the lives of people today. Studies conducted by researchers showed that people suffering from acne also display:
- Low self-confidence
- Feelings of inadequacy
- Refusal to socialize
- Low self-esteem
These effects are triggered by the negative effect acne has on looks and the resulting apprehension of negative reactions from others. People suffering from acne can end up living unsatisfying lives and fail in school, jobs and social interaction.
Getting Rid of Adult Acne
Although the media rarely talks about it, acne is one of the biggest skin problems faced by adults. As many as 25 percent of all adult men and 50 percent of adult women suffer from acne outbreaks at some point in their lives. However, the rest are not spared the trouble associated with an occasional pimple or blackhead. The main cause for these late outbreaks is either the environment and food, flare-ups of acne cured in the 20s, or simply the emergence of a whole new case of acne in people who have never suffered from it before.
It is believed that adult acne is caused by the overproduction of hormones in the body, which is why most treatments focus on lowering the level of hormones. Adult acne is usually treated with drugs under the supervision of a professional dermatologist. From my personal experience, I can recommend a simpler treatment that is, believe it or not, just as effective.
Adult acne is not as infrequent as people like to think, but that does not mean that it has to be allowed to become a social drawback. If you are concerned about acne, then you should see your doctor.
Quick Facts Regarding Acne
- Acne is commonly classified by severity as mild, moderate, or severe.
- Topical antibiotics are frequently used for mild to moderate to severe acne.
- Cigarette smoking increases the risk of developing acne and worsens its severity.
- The relationship between diet and acne is unclear, as there is no high-quality evidence.
- Hormonal activity, such as menstrual cycles and puberty, may contribute to the formation of acne.
- During puberty in both sexes, acne is often brought on by an increase in androgens, such as testosterone.
- Acne mostly affects skin with a higher number of oil glands including the face, upper part of the chest, and back.
- Acne occurs most commonly during adolescence, affecting an estimated 80 to 90% of teenagers in the Western world.
- While the connection between acne and stress has been debated, research indicates that increased acne severity is associated with high-stress levels.
- Acne scars are the result of inflammation within the dermal layer of skin brought on by acne and are estimated to affect 95% of people with acne vulgaris.
- Oral antibiotics are indicated for moderate to severe cases of inflammatory acne and decrease acne due to their antimicrobial activity against P. acnes with anti-inflammatory properties.
- Treatments exist for acne including benzoyl peroxide, antibiotics, retinoids, antiseborrheic medications, anti-androgen medications, hormonal treatments, salicylic acid, alpha hydroxy acid, azelaic acid, nicotinamide, and keratolytic soaps.
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