A General Overview of Acne: Nature, Cause and Treatment

Various Forms of Acne

Acne is a chronic inflammatory condition of the skin that can affect people from age 12 to 45. It is a skin infection that can cut across gender, social and ethnic barriers. It is so common that it appears in about 80 people out of a hundred. Acne usually starts during puberty, when activity in the sebaceous glands found underneath the skin commences, although it is also known to occur in much older individuals.

Acne is characterized by several things other than pimples. It also appears as comedones (whiteheads and blackheads) and red, yellow or yellow green spots on oily skin. It affects the areas of the skin covering the face and neck. Sometimes, it also appears on the chest, back, shoulders and upper arms. The severity of this skin condition varies from mild to severe. If left untreated or if treatment is improper, acne can result in scarring.

There are several forms of acne. These include:

  • Acne Vulgaris. The most common form of acne, often occurs during puberty.
  • Acne Conglomata. Characterized by boils or abscesses; tends to be chronic.
  • Acne Cosmetica. Acne that results from an allergy to cosmetics.
  • Nodular Acne. Characterized by the solid form of papule, usually extends deep into several skin layers.
  • Nodulocystic Acne. A combination of papules and cysts, severely inflamed.

Acne rosacea, a skin condition characterized by flushing and skin redness is not considered as true acne, although it is still often discussed along with other forms. Nodular acne treatment is disussed in depth in this site.

What Causes Acne?

There is no known root cause of acne but it seems to be the result of hyperactive sebaceous glands. When there is too much sebum in the skin, it clogs the pores and hair follicles and together with dead skin cells, it creates the ideal environment where the bacteria called Propionibacterium acnes can thrive. These bacteria cause the infection which results in the inflammation of the skin.

It is not understood why acne seems to run in some families or why it appears in some individuals but does not affect others. Some factors may also trigger an acne break out, such as stress, certain medications, hormone therapy, exposure to chlorine or an allergic reaction.

Treatments For Acne

There are two main categories of treatment for acne: medication and surgery. They will not cure acne but they can treat the symptoms, effectively reducing them and minimizing the appearance of acne or the frequency of breakouts. For medications, there are several treatments available:

Medications can come in either topical form or oral form. Topical creams used in treating acne contain antibiotics and keratolytics to help combat the infection and also loosen the hardened deposits of sebum and keratin on the surface of the skin.

One of the most common ingredients in new acne treatments and medications is benzoyl peroxide, which is available in different strengths. Benzoyl peroxide oxidizes the skin, killing the bacteria and reducing the inflammation. Other ingredients also include azelaic acid, hydroxy acid and sulfacetamide-sulfur.

Acne medicines in oral tablet form contain antibiotics and are often prescribed for more severe forms or for acne that affects a wider area of the skin. Antibiotics such as erythromycin, tetracycline and clindamycin are common ingredients. They are also available in topical form.

In terms of surgery, laser surgery or skin resurfacing seems to be enjoying a popularity these days, thanks to reports indicating that it is more than 90% effective in many cases. Laser surgery uses controlled bursts of CO2 applied directly on the skin, burning away the dermis or uppermost layer. Laser surgery is commonly used not only to prevent and treat acne but also to remove scars. Some of the most severe forms of acne, including nodular acne, can also benefit from this treatment.

Aside from laser surgery for acne, there are also other methods that are used to treat and reduce the appearance of acne. These include cryosurgery, excisional surgery and chemical surgery, commonly referred to as chemical peel. A promising treatment for acne includes photodynamic therapy, a procedure that uses a photosensitizing drug and bluelight to kill bacteria and reduce swelling.

Acne Skin Care Products

There is no single best acne skin care product that can address all kinds of acne effectively. Often, the best acne skin care products are those that are suitable for the specific condition and severity of the infection. You will find discussions of Neutragena, Proactiv, Murad and Ponds acne products by exploring our site.

What to Expect From Future Acne Medicines and Treatments

The possibility of finally establishing the link of acne with heredity seems to be a natural direction for future new acne treatments, considering that the condition appears to be hereditary. As of now, though, this technology is still too crude and much too expensive to be a practical means with which to address the problem of acne. The same holds true with gene therapy, which some circles say may be used to make changes in the DNA and improve the skin.