Acne affects more than 85% of teenagers and may frequently continue into adulthood. The cause of acne is unknown, but may include hormones, genetic factors, or stress. While not a life-threatening condition, acne can cause both physical discomfort and a psychological impact regardless of age.
The process by which a pimple develops involves a pore collapsing and blocking sebum (oil) from escaping. Acne is a term for plugged pores that can cause blackheads, whiteheads, pimples and even deeper lumps. Acne is most commonly found on the face and neck, but the chest, back, shoulders and upper arms can also be affected.
Swollen hair follicles clogged with oil are called “comedones”, which produce white bumps commonly known as whiteheads.
Closer to the surface of the skin, the oil produces dark bumps called blackheads. A common misconception is that blackheads have a dark colour due to an accumulation of dirt or debris, when in fact the black colour is due to the oil darkening when exposed to the external air.
Inflamed oil glands may burst in the deeper layers of the skin, releasing bacteria and oil. The result is tender, red, inflamed lumps called nodules or cysts.
There are treatments available for acne that vary depending on the severity. A Dermatologist will determine the best treatment, which may include a topical or oral antibiotic to keep down the bacteria and the associated inflammation that is experienced. In severe cases, a Dermatologist may also prescribe isotretinoin pills to treat excessive oil, clogged pores, bacteria overgrowth and inflammation. Isotretinoin is reserved for severe cases or for those resistant to other therapies. It is important to remember that all medications take 6 to 8 weeks for visible results.
Acne is a very common skin condition with the potential for long-term physical effects such as scarring. It is important to treat acne early to prevent scarring.