|What Causes Acne?|
|How to Prevent Acne?|
|How to Treat Acne?|
Acne is not just a condition affecting teenagers. Although many people experience acne during their adolescent years, people in their twenties often report having the condition. Men are more likely than women to have long-term acne. Women are more likely to have shorter experiences of acne often caused by changes in hormones or by certain types of cosmetics. Although you may think that greasy cafeteria food or late-night chocolate snacks might be a cause of acne outbreaks, this is untrue because food is not responsible for acne outbreaks. For more info on acne, visit http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/acne.html . [ To Top ]
Over 17 million Americans have acne making it the most common skin condition in the United States. acne is most likely to occur on the face, neck, back, and chest. These areas are where sebaceous glands are mostly located. Sebaceous glands produce an oily substance called sebum. Normally, the sebum empties onto the skin surface through the opening of the follicle but sometimes the sebum can get trapped inside the pore, causing acne pimples to appear on the face or on other areas. Acne pimples can be non-inflammatory or inflammatory. Whiteheads are non-inflammatory pimples that form under the skin and are caused by blocked pores. Blackheads are open to the air, and are black due to a chemical reaction that occurs between the air and the debris inside. Bacteria (called P. acnes) or yeast inside the pore can cause whiteheads to become inflamed and can lead to pus-filled, swollen pimples. For examples of different types of acne pimples, visit: http://www.derm-infonet.com/acnenet/typesof.html.
The exact cause of acne is unknown, but doctors believe it results from several related factors. One important factor is
rising hormone levels. These hormones, called androgens (male sex hormones), increase in both boys and girls during puberty
and can cause the sebaceous glands to enlarge and make more sebum. This explains why teenagers between the ages of 11 and 14
are at greatest risk of getting acne. Also, due to hormonal changes that occur during a woman's menstrual cycle, women are
more likely to suffer from outbreaks 2 to 7 days before menstruation begins. Other periods during which hormones are
fluctuating, such as pregnancy or starting or ending birth control pills can also cause outbreaks.
Adapted from: http://www.nih.gov/niams/healthinfo/acne/acne.html .
Another factor that influences the appearance of acne is heredity or genetics. Researchers believe that the tendency to develop acne can be inherited from parents. For example, studies have shown that many school-age boys with acne have a family history of the disorder.
Once a pore is clogged, bacteria are more likely to enter the area of skin around the acne and cause inflammation. These inflamed pimples may become large and painful and develop into cystic acne that may eventually cause scarring. A CYST is deep, inflamed, pus-filled lesion. For more info on scaring, visit: http://www.derm-infonet.com/acnenet/scarring.html
Acne can also be caused by certain cosmetics that contain a lot of oil and are likely to block pores. Avoid these products and purchase ones that are labeled "noncomedogenic". If you use make-up to cover breakouts, make sure you use ones that are noncomedogenic. However sometimes even these may worsen the condition. Additionally, keep in mind that environmental irritants, such as pollutants and high humidity, can make acne worse.
Contrary to popular belief, acne is not caused by poor hygiene. Dirt does not cause acne, whiteheads, or blackheads. These result from internal biological processes. Washing skin vigorously to remove all dirt and oil will just make acne worse. Poor diet and stress also do not cause acne; however, stress, particularly severe or prolonged emotional tension, may aggravate the disorder. [ To Top ]
It is important to follow these as well as the behaviors above if you have acne:
Although some people may feel that allowing acne to "take its course" is a natural way to remedy the condition, acne is almost always curable. If you have mild acne you might want to try over-the-counter medications first. If the acne persists, you can visit a dermatologist who can prescribe you medication.
Over-The-Counter (OTC) Medication- Many OTC products help to dry up excess oil and help to remove the dead skin cells which can clog pores. Be careful of special cleansers, since they may be harsh and aggravate the skin. Look for lotions, creams, or gels with:
Prescription Medication- If OTC medications do not help your acne, you may want to visit a dermatologist who can prescribe a variety of different types of medicines. To find a dermatologist from the American Academy of Dermatology near you, visit: http://www.aad.org/findaderm_intro.html. A dermatologist can prescribe topical or oral antibiotics, other prescription lotions, birth-control pills, or other treatments. Depending upon your skin type and condition, you might have to take a combination of medications.
The severity of acne varies greatly from one person to person and can have different effects on each woman's life. For many women acne is an inconvenience; but for others the condition is a source of great embarrassment and discomfort. Most of us go through periods of breakouts, during adolescence or just before our menstrual cycle. But for more serious conditions that persist despite proper cleansing and over-the-counter medications, treatment with prescription drugs by a dermatologist can almost always help. [ To Top ]
For more information about acne, including its causes and treatments, check out the following websites:
Questions and Answers about Acne--NIAMS
A fact sheet by the National ARTHRITIS and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases about common questions concerning acne.
A web site offered through Roche Laboratories, Inc. and the American Academy of Dermatology. Includes comprehensive information on acne and also helps to locate a dermatologist near you.
This site offers helpful info on acne, as well as detailed information on specific prescription drug treatments, such as Accutane, Retin-A, and Ortho Tri-Cyclen. It also has message boards and personal experiences.
American Academy of Dermatology
P.O. Box 4014
Schaumburg, IL 60168 4014
Fax: (847) 330-0050
This national organization for dermatologists publishes a brochure on acne. The brochure can be obtained by calling or writing to the academy; it is also available on the organization's Web site. The academy can also provide referrals to dermatologists. [ To Top ]