Introduction to Acne
Acne is a condition characterised by the appearance of various types of spots or comedones (singular: comedo) on the surface of the skin.
What is Acne?
Acne is a condition characterised by the appearance of various types of spots or comedones (singular: comedo) on the surface of the skin. Sebaceous glands naturally secrete oily sebum via your pores to maintain healthy skin. However, in acne the pore becomes blocked causing an accumulation of sebum that can present itself as a whitehead if skin forms over the pore or a blackhead if the sebum oxidises.
If comedones persist they can develop into sebaceous pustules and cysts. These in turn can cause inflammation in deeper layers of the skin which is the main
cause of acne scars.
What causes Acne?
Many people experience some form of acne during puberty when hormonal changes cause an increase in sebum secretion. This is normal and around 80% of people are affected by this. Unfortunately this can develop with complications.
More serious acnes can present with infections caused by the P. acnes bacterium which normally has no impact on your health, but alongside the abnormal sebum production it becomes increasingly infectious.
There is also a genetic link to acne: While it is unknown as to what degree your genome affects your chances of developing acne it is not uncommon for it to “run in the family”. If both your parents had acne in the past then you are far more likely to develop it too.
Women also can experience outbreaks of acne associated with their menstrual cycle or during pregnancy. This is treated in a similar manner to other cases.
There is also a range of misconceptions concerning the incidence of acne: As of yet no association has been found with a poor diet or hygiene, though neither are recommended. Moreover, acne isn’t infectious, though squeezing comedones is also not recommended due to causing further inflammation and increasing the likelihood of scars.
What are the symptoms of Acne?
Acne causes increased oily secretions which then lead to spots most commonly found on the face, back or chest. These spots can take on a range of forms including whiteheads, blackheads, and perhaps nodules and cysts.
Though not physiologically related acne very often causes depression and anxiety. Even if you don’t consider your acne as particularly severe, if you experience any kind of distress as a result then treatment is recommended.
How is Acne treated?
Although the symptoms of acne can often be treated at home with an appropriate cleanser there are many cases that require the intervention of a dermatologist.
Common treatments include a variety of topical medications such benzoyl peroxide cream which acts against the P. acnes bacterium, retinoid cream to reduce sebum production and azelaic acid cream which has anti-inflammatory properties.
More serious cases can be treated with manual extraction of the comedo for temporary relief and photodynamic therapy. Acne scars can also be treated with dermabrasion, laser resurfacing and chemical peels should this be desired.