what is acne

Overview

Acne is a very common chronic skin condition. It affects up to 50 million Americans annually. It causes pimples which are formed when the hair follicles underneath your skin clog up with sebum (secreted by the sebaceous glands), dead skin cells, and bacteria. These pimples are mostly formed on the face, back, forehead, neck, and shoulders. Anyone can get acne but some people are more prone to developing it. Acne is most common among teenagers.

Blackheads, whiteheads, acne vulgaris, papules, comedones, pustules, cystic acne, and nodules are all different types of acne.

What Causes Acne?

Acne is mostly a hormonal condition that is triggered in teenagers. Some other reasons can cause acne or acne flares,

  • Air Pollution
  • Weather Conditions: If you live in a highly humid area
  • Some foods and diets can cause acne flare-ups. Research has shown that skimmed milk, whey protein, and diets that are high in sugar can cause acne flare-ups
  • Using heavy products on the skin (heavy moisturizers or serums that have chemicals that may not suit your skin)
  • Working in places where there is extra heat and grease like restaurants
  • medications side effects
  • Stress
  • Genetics

There are many other causes of acne but to narrow it down, besides hormonal cystic acne, most forms of acne flare-ups happen due to excessive grease, humidity, and dirt.

Symptoms

Pimples, blackheads, and all other forms of acne appear quite suddenly. They are caused by some changes in the environment and body but there aren’t any specified symptoms that determine if an individual has acne or not. The symptoms that occur after or before acne is formed on the skin are as follows.

  • Irritated Skin
  • Patchy Skin Bumps
  • Redness around the flare-ups
  • Scarring of the skin
  • Textured Skin
  • Skin Congestion

Diagnosis

Acne can be diagnosed during a skin exam. A physician may also ask you what medications you are on, if the people in your family also suffer from chronic acne, and if you have been under some sort of stress lately. Teenage girls and women would also be asked about their menstrual cycle as that sometimes can cause acne flare-ups.

Treatment

The treatment of acne depends on its severity. Mild acne is treated using home remedies or some over-the-counter medications like gels, creams, and ointments. For sensitive skin lotions and moisturizers work well.

Acne treatments contain some active ingredients that help clear up the skin. These active ingredients include:

  • Benzoyl peroxide: It treats acne by killing bacteria underneath the skin, shedding dead skin, and getting rid of excess sebum
  • Salicylic acid: This is a beta-hydroxy acid that treats acne by exfoliating the skin
  • Retinol: It’s a vitamin A derivative that unclogs pores and increases skin cell turnover.
  • Azelaic acid: This is used to treat rosacea and decreases swelling and redness of the skin
  • Resorcinol: This is used to treat acne vulgaris. It removes the buildup of dead skin cells and debris on the skin.

The doctor normally advised you to do a patch test if you are using something that has one of these active ingredients as they might not suit some skin types.

When To See A Doctor?

If home remedies and over-the-counter medication are not working and the acne keeps on getting worse see your Primary care physician. He/she may recommend some stronger medication and might suggest some changes in your diet.

In older adults, a sudden acne flare-up may signal an underlying disease that requires immediate medical attention.


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