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Acne is a skin disorder which involves the pilosebaceous units of the skin. These consist of a hair follicle, which gives rise to skin hairs, and the attached sebaceous gland, which produces sebum.
Sebum is a greasy secretion which keeps the hair and skin moisturized. The sebum escapes from the hair follicle through the narrow canal, along with dead cells and other debris. When this pore is blocked, sebum and other material piles up behind the plug, causing a visible skin bump. This can become inflamed or infected, leading to the formation of a pimple or zit.
Colonization of the hair follicle by the skin commensal bacterium Propionibacterium acnescauses the release of still more inflammatory chemicals which worsen the condition. Acne is most common over the face, neck, upper chest and back, and the upper arms.
Possibly because acne is related to the activity of androgens, the male sex hormones, young males are more prone to develop severe forms of acne. With this said, 80% of adult acne occurs in women.
In young women, the outbreaks of acne are observed to occur in relation to menstrual periods. Over a period of time, as women approach their late thirties, acne tends to subside. This is not a rule, however, and some women have their first episode later in life. This usually appears after the age of 25 years, and is called adult-onset acne. It is characterized by deep painful nodular and inflamed lesions.
Acne is minor in relation to its physical consequences, but major in relation to the impact it has on the individual’s appearance, personality, and mood. Severe forms of acne can disfigure the person through scarring, emotional distress, and often the required plastic surgery to correct them to some extent.
Depression and a negative body image are linked to acne in many cases. Fortunately, acne can be treated and even prevented in some cases.
The different forms of acne range from a comedo to cystic nodular acne. They are described as follows:
Acne may arise in adults due to the following:
If you have acne, try a tested over-the-counter medication or see a doctor if there are many lesions. You may be prescribed one or more of the following medicated creams or lotions:
These are usually used for 6-8 weeks, following which resolution should occur. If not, you may have to see a dermatologist (skin specialist).
Advanced treatment may consist of:
This may consist of:
Dermabrasion refers to resurfacing the facial skin, to even its contours. It may be done by ablative or non-ablative laser. Chemical peels are sometimes used for the same purpose. Photodynamic therapy is also being studied for this purpose, and seems to give favorable results in removing acne scars.