What is Acne?
Acne vulgaris commonly called acne is an inflammatory skin condition that is chronic. Acne leads to pimples and/or spots on the face, neck, shoulders, arms, and chest. It is most commonly found in teenagers who are in their puberty and also in some women in their late 20’s. It usually happens when the oil glands in the skin and the hair follicles are affected. It is not a dangerous skin condition but can leave ugly scars. Though bacteria play a role in the development of this skin condition, it is not caused by bacteria. Small pimples and scars can be treated using over the counter medications, but for tougher acne problems consulting a dermatologist for treatment is recommended.
Symptoms of Acne
Acne signs and symptoms are not just pimples but can also have:
More than these imperfections on the skin, acne symptoms also include:
- Dark spots which take time to heal and disappear
- Scars: People who have cysts and nodules have scars after the acne gets cleared. These scars can become permanent if it is not prevented or treated early. Cyst and nodules should be treated immediately after acne appears to prevent scars.
- Low-self esteem: Many people who are suffering from acne have low self-esteem and do not feel good about themselves. They tend to avoid social interactions and gatherings and in severe cases even miss school/work.
- Depression: Acne can also lead to depression, some teens might also think of suicide due to acne.
Who is at Risk of Acne?
Developing acne usually happens at puberty due to hormonal changes in the body during this time. This can result in overactive glands and oil production. Acne that happens due to hormonal imbalance during puberty usually reduces and gets better as the person reaches adulthood. Certain food is also thought to be a major contributor for acne, but there is no scientific evidence of the same, however, the major acne Risk Factors are:
- Genetics: Kids whose parents had acne are more likely to have this inflammation
- Hormonal changes: During menopause, puberty, or even pregnancy
- Imbalanced diet: Food that is high in sugars, carbs, and fat.
- Medications: Certain pills like the birth control pill and corticosteroids can cause acne.
- Lack of personal hygiene: Skin often becomes dirty due to pollution, heat, etc, and that creates a good environment for bacteria to infect the pores. Unwashed towels and pillowcases can also lead to acne.
What Causes Acne?
The skin has pores, oil glands, and follicles. The pores of the skin connect to the follicle which is made of oil glands and hair. The oil gland produces an oily liquid called the sebum which helps in keeping the skin smooth, soft, and lubricated. Skin inflammation or acne happens when the pores get blocked by the dead skin, oil, or even bacteria. Most of the time the lubrication process has problems and that leads to acne and that can result in pimples. Acne happens due to:
- Presence of bacteria in the pores
- Accumulation of dead skin in the pores
- Overproduction of sebum in the follicles
The lubrication problems can happen due to a rise in levels of androgen. It is a hormone that increases when adolescence starts. It causes oil glands to grow and increase sebum production. Some of the factors that cause acne are; menstruation, emotional stress, wrong cosmetics, hormonal changes, and even medications.
Since there are many other skin conditions that mimic acne, you should get your skin checked from an acne doctor. The doctor will determine the type of acne you have and the grade/severity of the condition after the acne test. Grade 4 is termed as severe acne and grade 1 as mild.
Acne is broadly classified into two types:
Noninflammatory acne: It includes whiteheads and blackheads and they can be treated with acne medications.
- Blackheads occur when the pores get blocked by dead skin cells and sebum. Since the top of the pore is open it results in black colour on the surface of the skin.
- Whiteheads are formed when the pore is blocked by dead skin cells and sebum. Here, the top of the pore is closed and thus it looks like a bump coming out of the skin.
Inflammatory acne: These are swollen and red in colour. Here apart from the sebum and dead skin clogging the pores, there is a buildup of bacteria. That results in infection and painful acne. Some of the types of inflammatory acne are:
- Papules: The skin is pink, the pores are tender due to the walls around the pores breaking down.
- Pustules: This is also a severe inflammation of the skin and happens when the walls of the pores fall down. The head is yellow or white in colour, the bump is pus-filled and red in colour.
- Nodules: This happens deeper in the skin, unlike papules and fistula. It happens due to pores getting clogged and swollen. It can grow larger as the irritation increases.
- Cysts: This develops when the clog gets blocked due to dead skin cells, sebum, and bacteria. These happen deeper below the nodules and are painful. These are the largest of all acnes and are due to severe infection. If not treated properly it can lead to permanent scars.
How is Acne Treated?
The best acne treatment is decided based on severity and persistence.
Mild acne is treated with OTC medications like creams, lotion, gels, etc that can be applied to the skin. This can be done at home with/without the help of a doctor.
Treating Moderate and severe cases has to be done by a dermatologist who will prescribe acne medication. Treatment options are:
- OTC medications or topical antibiotics
- Corticosteroid injections to treat cysts. A doctor will also prescribe the best acne scar removal products to prevent scatting and fasten healing.
- Antibiotics to reduce acne and also to prevent the growth of bacteria in the pores.
- Oral contraceptives in women with long-term acne
- Procedures like laser, light therapies, chemical peels, acne removal to treat acne.
Care.fit not only treats their patients but also helps in acne prevention. The best part of getting treatment is that they are available through online doctor consultations. Get direct one-one consultations to get your acne treated.
How can Acne be Prevented?
Acne is a problem that is common to everyone, it is nothing to be embarrassed about. Here are some tips to prevent and manage them effectively:
- Wash face with mild soap and warm water more than twice a day
- Do not pop the pimples as they leave a scar
- Bursting a pimple should be avoided as it can lead to infections
- Wash hair often as it can increase sebum production
- Do not touch the face
- Wash towels, pillowcases regularly as it may contain dead skin
- Wear loose clothing if the acne is on the back, chest, or shoulders.
- Avoid stress and anxiety as it can lead to hormonal imbalance.