Acne or pimples is a common skin disease that mainly occurs during adolescence and often develops into Adult Acne.
Acne, medically known as Acne Vulgaris involves the oil glands at the base of hair follicles. It commonly occurs during puberty when the sebaceous (oil) glands come to life – the glands are stimulated by male hormones produced by the adrenal glands of both males and females.
Acne develops most often on the face, neck, chest, shoulders, or back and can range from mild to severe. It can last for a few months, many years, or come and go in your entire life.
Mild acne usually causes only whiteheads and blackheads. At times, these may develop into an infection in the skin pore (pimple).
Severe acne can produce hundreds of pimples that cover large areas of skin. Cystic lesions are pimples that are large and deep. These lesions are often painful and can leave scars on your skin.
Nobody is completely sure what causes acne. Experts believe the primary cause is a rise in androgen levels – androgen is a type of hormone. Androgen levels rise when a human becomes an adolescent. Rising androgen levels make the oil glands under your skin grow; the enlarged gland produces more oil. Excessive sebum can break down cellular walls in your pores, causing bacteria to grow.
Some studies indicate that a susceptibility to acne could also be genetic. Some medications that contain androgen and lithium may cause acne. Greasy cosmetics may cause acne in some susceptible people. Hormone changes during pregnancy may cause acne either to develop for the first time, or to recur.
Treatment for acne depends on how severe it is. It can take several months of treatment before acne symptoms improve.
If you just have a few blackheads, whiteheads and spots, you should be able to treat them successfully with over-the-counter gels or creams (topical treatments) that contain benzoyl peroxide.
Some self-help techniques may also be useful:
Do not wash affected areas of skin more than twice a day. Frequent washing can irritate the skin and make symptoms worse.
Wash the affected area with a mild soap or cleanser and lukewarm water. Very hot or cold water can make acne worse.
Don’t try to “clean out” blackheads or squeeze spots. This can make them worse and cause permanent scarring.
Avoid using too much make-up and cosmetics. Use water-based products that are described as non-comedogenic (this means the product is less likely to block the pores in your skin).
Completely remove make-up before going to bed.
If dry skin is a problem, use a fragrance-free, water-based emollient.
Regular exercise cannot improve your acne, but it can boost your mood and improve your self-esteem.
Shower as soon as possible once you finish exercising as sweat can irritate your acne.
Wash your hair regularly and try to avoid letting your hair fall across your face.
Treatments can take up to three months to work, so don’t expect results overnight. See your GP if your acne is more widespread – for example, you have a large number of papules and pustules, or over-the-counter medication hasn’t worked – as you probably need prescription medication.
Prescription medications that can be used to treat acne include:
in women, the combined oral contraceptive pill isotretinoin tablets
If you have severe acne, such as a large number of papules and pustules on your chest and back as well as your face, or if you have painful nodules, your GP can refer you to an expert in treating skin conditions (dermatologist).
A combination of antibiotic tablets and topical treatments is usually the first treatment option for severe acne. If this doesn’t work, a medication called isotretinoin may be prescribed.
Hormonal therapies or the combined oral contraceptive pill can also be effective in women who have acne. However, the progestogen-only pill or contraceptive implant can sometimes make acne worse.
Many of these treatments can take two to three months before they start working. It is important to be patient and persist with a recommended treatment, even if there is no immediate effect.
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