Acne is a common skin condition characterised by appearance of painful and inflamed red growths, usually on the face, back and shoulders. These growths are commonly referred to as pimples. Acne most commonly affects people during puberty, however it has been known to manifest in adults and (rarely) in infants. It is thought that 3 out of 4 teenagers will develop some form of acne in their life.
Acne usually occurs when tiny holes in the skin (known as pores) become blocked. Each skin pore has a hair follicle, and a small gland that secretes an oily substance called sebum. This gland is called the sebaceous gland. The role of sebum is to moisten the hair and keep the surrounding skin soft. When too much sebum is produced, the pore can become blocked, which can lead to dirt, bacteria and debris being trapped within. This causes an inflammatory reaction by the body, and consequently the pore may become red, painful and look like it has pus in it; this is a classic example of a pimple.
There are two components that predispose an individual to developing acne. The most significant contributor to this is genetics; persons with a family history of acne are at a far higher risk of developing acne than those with no family history. It has been found that those affected by acne usually have higher levels of hormones called androgens. These hormones can act on the sebaceous glands, leading to increased sebum production. Consequently, people with higher levels of androgens are likely to produce higher amounts of sebum, which can lead to acne.
There a number of situations where an individual's hormone production is altered and they consequently may develop or aggravate their acne. A key example is puberty; during this period, your reproductive organs produce significantly more androgens, and this explains why acne predominantly affects teenagers. Other conditions where individuals may develop acne due to this hormonal imbalance include pregnancy, menstrual periods and stress. In rare cases, an individual may have / develop a condition where they produce excessive quantities of androgen, which can predispose to acne development.
Whilst genetics play the most fundamental role in developing acne, there are environmental factors that may assist in developing acne or if already present, aggravating it. Most important of these are mechanical occlusion of your skin pores and certain medications.
Acne can be caused by mechanically occluding the pores in your skin. This can occur quite easily, common examples include:
In these situations, dirt and other foreign particles may enter and accumulate in your skin pores, or it may be prevented from being cleared out of your pores.
Finally, acne may develop as a response to medications that an individual may be taking. Commonly prescribed medications that have been known to produce acne as a side effect include corticosteroids and oral contraceptives.
In most cases, acne resolves at the end of puberty / the teenage years. However in some cases, it can go on to develop severe scarring. Whilst this may not be a life - threatening issue, for some people it can become a disfiguring condition that can induce serious self - consciousness, particularly in teenagers.
If managed properly, acne should resolve within a few weeks. If you are experiencing difficulty with treating your acne, you have concerns about developing scarring from your acne, or you are feeling depressed about your acne, you are strongly advised to consult a medical practitioner.
Whilst there is no specific 'cure', there are a number of ways to get rid of your acne.
Initially, you are advised to treat your acne through self care: this includes washing your hair, face and other acne - affected parts of your body properly, particularly after exercise. Try and manage the environmental factors listed above if you feel that they may be a contributing factor to your acne.
Whilst many people consider diet (particularly foods such as chocolate, deep fried food) as factors that assist in developing acne, research is yet to confirm this idea. However, even if this may not directly cause acne, you're advised to moderate your intake of these foods to ensure your overall health.
If you are concerned that your acne is not responding to your lifestyle changes, or you fear that your acne may lead to scarring, our doctors at Holdsworth House can prescribe you with stronger medications that have been shown to effectively treat acne. Our GPs can offer you a range of medications that may help you in treating you acne, and they can also assist you in identifying lifestyle factors / medications that may be exacerbating your acne. If you are feeling depressed about your acne, our GPs can assist in counseling you for this, and provide you with the appropriate care if required.
In extremely severe cases, where your acne may be very difficult to treat, our GPs can refer you to our on - site dermatologist who can offer you a number of procedures to manage your acne or any scarring.