Acne ranges from mild to severe, and may develop on the face, neck, chest, shoulders, and back. Severe forms of acne may lead to scars, and many sufferers, especially teenagers, may feel embarrassed by it.
Early treatment of acne helps to control it, but in some cases, pimples may be difficult to remove and prevent from reoccurring. Mild forms of acne can be removed using over-the-counter prescriptions, while tougher areas may need further medical consultation.
The most common cause of acne is the plugging of pores by dead cells and oil. Increased production of hormones during puberty and pregnancy stimulate sebaceous glands on the skin to produce more oil, which mixes with the dead cells and clog the pores.
Certain medications like corticosteroids and androgens are known to increase the production of sebum, and thus cause acne. Some dietary habits and stress also trigger pimples.
There are many misconceptions about the causes of acne.
Most people consider dirty skin as the major source of acne, and scrub their skin hard to keep it clean. Too much scrubbing can worsen acne, particularly when one is using harsh soaps or chemicals. Further, many people avoid cosmetics thinking that these will trigger acne. However, oil-free makeup may not affect acne.
Another common myth is that fatty foods cause and worsen acne, but this dietary factor actually does not affect the development of pimples.
Your doctor will prescribe medications that can help reduce your acne. In conditions where your acne is persistent or more severe, you may seek treatment from a dermatologist, a doctor who specializes in the treatment of skin disorders.
Early treatment always decreases the risk of permanent scarring.
Preparing for your visit
There are a few things you can do to help your doctor reach a diagnosis. Be ready for any possible questions he or she may ask.
Make a list of key information, such as other conditions you've been diagnosed with, and any prescription or over-the-counter products you are currently using, including vitamins and supplements.
List key personal information, including any life changes, and also list any other questions you can think to ask your doctor.
Your doctor may ask you when you first developed the problem, and he or she will ask about potential triggers.
Mild acne may go without any specific treatment or with over-the-counter medications. Common medications help to dry up the oil and peel off the skin. Moderate and severe forms of acne may need treatment which depends on the severity and type of acne. These medications help to control acne and avoid scarring of the skin.
Acne medications help to reduce oil production by sebaceous glands and speed up the production of new skin cells, preventing clogging of pores by dead cells. They may also help to reduce inflammation. It may take months for severe acne to clear. Treatment of acne includes topical applications, oral medications, and/or therapies.
• Retinoids – retinoid creams and gels are usually applied in the evening and help to prevent clogging of skin pores. Dapsone gel is often used along with a retinoid for improved effect.
• Antibiotics – antibiotics help to prevent bacterial infection and is usually used in combination with retinoids. Oral antibiotics are used in moderate to severe form of acne. A combination of antibiotics and benzoyl peroxide helps to prevent development of antibiotic resistance.
• Hormonal therapy – Combined oral contraceptives with estrogen and progestin are used for controlling acne in teenage girls and women. Acne caused by sensitivity to the androgen hormone is treated with anti-androgen medications.
• Isotretinoin – this medication is prescribed for severe forms of acne, particularly in those who do not respond to other forms of treatment.
• Chemical peel – this procedure is used in combination with other acne treatments, and is done with salicylic acid. This method cannot be used as an alternative for a regular therapy.
• Extraction – whiteheads and blackheads may be removed using a special tool. It should be performed with utmost care as it may lead to scarring.
• Injections – steroids are injected directly into nodular lesions and cystic lesions to clear them off completely.
Removal of scars is the next step in the treatment of acne. Different procedures help in reducing the scars. Chemical peels using acids help in making scars less obvious. Repeated fillings with collagen are also used to remove scars.
Shallow scars can be removed by dermabrasion, a procedure in which upper layers of skin are removed. This triggers healing by the formation of new skin cells in the region.
Upper layers of the skin in the scar can also be removed with the help of laser and light sources, and this will be gradually replaced by a new layer of skin.
Surgery is used to remove deep depressions in scars and to replace them with graft.
You may need to continue your acne medication or treatment even if your acne has improved in order to prevent new lesions.
You should continue use of topical creams on acne prone areas, continue taking oral medication, and attending ongoing light therapy sessions. Your doctor will provide advice on the ways to keep your skin clear.
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