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What is Acne: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Definition & Overview

Acne, technically referred to as Acne Vulgaris, is a skin condition characterized by inflamed red and scaly bumps on the surface of the skin. It can be mild, moderate, or severe. While a case of mild acne can be described as a few small pimples and red bumps, moderate or severe acne covers large areas of the face, neck, back, and chest. The condition is common during adolescence when hormones are extremely active causing a lot of oil build-up on the face. However, after the teen years, the occurrence of acne should drastically decrease. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case for many people as the infections can be carried forward into adulthood.

Causes of Condition

Acne develops when the hair follicles are clogged with oil, dead skin cells, and dirt. When these become infected with bacteria, the area starts to swell and turns red. If the skin is broken, it can also cause scarring. Other factors that worsen the condition include hormones, diet, certain medications, and stress.

Key Symptoms

Symptoms of acne, which vary depending on the severity of the condition, are the following:

  • Closed plugged pores
  • Blackheads
  • Small red, tender bumps
  • Pimples
  • Pus-filled lumps or cystic lesions

Who to See & Types of Treatments Available

The ideal method to treat acne depends on the severity of the condition. Mild acne cases can be treated by frequently cleaning the area with warm water and mild soap. Creams such as benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid can also help in the treatment. Meanwhile, patients have the option to use alternative forms of acne treatment including the following:

  • Azelaic Acid from whole grain cereals
  • Alpha hydroxy acid from citrus fruits
  • Tea Tree Oil
  • Green Tea Extract
  • Brewer’s Yeast
  • Aloe Vera

In many instances, birth control pills are used to treat acne. However, it’s important to know that people respond differently to these pills. Some may experience side effects such as elevated blood pressure, blood clots, headaches, and menstrual changes.

If the mild acne still persists even after using the aforementioned treatments, the next step is to consult a dermatologist, who can prescribe stronger creams or even antibiotics to treat the condition.

Meanwhile, if you have a moderate to severe case of acne, consulting a dermatologist before trying any treatment method is crucial. As these conditions normally involve nodules and cysts, the dermatologist will have to drain pus and apply antibiotic creams. The patient will also need to take oral antibiotics to control the infection.

Dealing with acne scars

Acne can have a psychological effect during and after its occurrence because of the scars that it usually leaves behind. For some people, the scars will eventually fade over time, but for others, acne can have a devastating effect.

Fortunately, scars can be removed through laser resurfacing. In this method, a laser is used to remove the scarred skin layer by layer. New skin will eventually grow to replace the damaged area.

Laser resurfacing is a painful procedure, which is why the patient is normally sedated. The recovery period will depend on the area and depth of the treatment. Full facial treatments will require a longer recovery period.

Dermabrasion has the same concept as laser resurfacing, however instead of using a laser, a wire brush or diamond wheel is used to remove the scarred layer of skin tissue. It will take up to eight days for new skin to grow and up to 12 weeks until it turns into a normal skin tone.

Psychological Support

Acne can have a psychological effect especially with teens. While some teens may be able to get through the period relatively unaffected psychologically, others may need support. If a teen’s normal daily activities are drastically affected because of acne, then it would be best to consult a counselor. However, primary support should always come from immediate family members.

Resources:

  • Acne Organization – http://www.acne.org