Understanding Acne and Its Causes
Acne can appear on the skin as tender red bumps also known as pimples, pustules (bumps containing pus), and occasionally as cysts. Acne can be found on almost any part of your body, but most commonly it develops on your face, neck, back, chest, and shoulders.
What Causes Acne?
Several factors can contribute towards the development of acne. It mainly occurs when sebaceous glands attached to the hair follicles secrete excessive sebum at the time of puberty, due to hormonal changes or other factors. This increased oil production plug the follicular pore which causes acne.
When this plug is covered by a thin layer of skin, it can appear as a whitehead, if the plug is exposed to the air, it may develop into a darker exposed portion called "blackhead." When the clogged hair follicle grows in size, it produces a bump. As it enlarges further, the wall may break, allowing normal skin bacteria and irritating substances such as dirt move into the deeper layers of the skin, causing inflammation. Pustule is caused by inflammation near the skin's surface, deeper inflammation develops a papule (also called pimple) or a cyst.
Other Factors that Can Contribute to the Development of Acne
Heredity: If one of your parents suffered from severe acne problem at any point in their life, the possibility is that you will have it too. The worse thing is that hereditary acne problem is more difficult to control.
Hormones: The increase in hormonal production is another factor that contributes to acne development in teenagers. Both girls and boys produce high levels of androgen during puberty. These are the male sex hormones containing testosterone that signals the body to make more sebum which triggers the acne development. In women, the hormonal changes around the monthly period may also cause a flare-up of spots.
Medications: Certain medications can make acne worse, such as those containing bromides, iodides, or oral or injected steroids or the steroids that athletes and bodybuilders take sometimes. Anticonvulsant medications can also cause or aggravate acne. However, most cases of acne are not drug related.
Occupations: Some jobs where a person needs to stay in humid conditions for a long period may make acne worse. Women doing regular hot work in kitchens can also develop acne due to heavy sweating.
Cosmetics: Some skin-care products are comedogenic (pore clogging). Therefore, it is important to read the list of ingredients and prefer to use only "water-based" products if you are having acne problem.
When to Consult with a Doctor
Mild acne can be treated by using over-the-counter medications or home remedies. However, if these don’t work to clear up your acne, you must see your primary healthcare provider. He or she can prescribe you stronger medications to unclog pores. However, if acne persists for a long time or is severe, seek medical treatment from an expert dermatologist, a doctor who specializes in the skin.
The FDA warns that some popular over-the-counter cleansers, acne lotions, and other skin products can cause a serious reaction. So, if you experience extreme redness or irritation from a topical medicine, seek the help of a doctor immediately.