Acne Basics

Acne is a common skin disease that affects about 89% of all teenagers and commonly lasts into adulthhod. The face and upper neck are the most commonly affected areas, but the chest, back and shoulders may develop acne as well.

There are various degrees of Acne severity. Mild acne is characterized by areas of skin with multiple noninflammatory follicular papules or comedones. In it more severe form, often known as cystic Acne, the Acne is manifested in inflammatory papules, pustules, and nodules. Cystic acne affects deeper skin tissue than does common acne, which is often only present at or near the surface of the skin.

Acne is generally caused by a buildup of dead skin cells in skin pores, that mix with oil (sebum) and block pores. The pore then can become infected, produce inflamation and redness. There is little evidence what causes Acne. Genetics appears to play a large role. Further, men generally tend to get more severe acne than women.

There is little evidence that extraneous factors (i.e., foods) influence or aggravate Acne. However, there is evidence which suggests that stress can aggravate acne, as well as heat and/or warm climates. For further discussion on this topic, see Heat and Acne .

Contrary to popular myth, Acne is not caused by a buildup of dirt on the skin or poor hygene. However, regular washing will help to rid the skin of excess oil and dead skin cells which can aid Acne sufferers.

There are generally four terms used to characterize types of Acne lesions. These are comedo, papule, pustule, nodule and cyst (from least severe to most severe).

A comedo, the least severe form of Acne lesion, is often characterized as a whitehead or blackhead. A comedo is a sebaceous follicle plugged with sebum, dead skin cells, tiny hairs, and sometimes bacteria. When a comedo is open, it is commonly called a blackhead because the surface of the pimple in the follicle has a blackish appearance. A closed comedo is commonly called a whitehead.

A papule is generally defined as a small (5 millimeters or less), solid lesion slightly elevated above the surface of the skin.

A pustule is a dome-shaped, fragile pimple containing pus that typically consists of a mixture of white blood cells, dead skin cells, and bacteria.

A nodule or cyst is a sac-like lesion containing liquid or semi-liquid material consisting of white blood cells, dead cells, and bacteria. It is larger than a pustule, may be severely inflamed, can extend deep into the skin, may be very painful, and can damage the skin tissue destruction that can result in scarring. Acne consisting of nodules and cysts may not respond other than temporarily to most forms of treatment, other than Accutane. For useful pictures of the different types of Acne, see the following desciptions and pictures from the American Acadamy of Dermatology


 Acne Facts

Here are some Acne facts that are worth remembering:

• There is no known way to prevent the development of acne.

• Acne is not caused by poor hygiene or not washing.

• Acne is not caused by diet.

• Acne can be treated.

• Changes in hormone levels in adolescent girls and adult women 2 to 7 days before their menstrual
period starts can aggravate Acne.

• Oil from skin products (moisturizers or cosmetics) or grease encountered in the work
environment (for example, a kitchen with fry vats) can aggravate Acne.

• Pressure from sports helmets or equipment, backpacks, tight collars, or tight sports uniforms can aggravate Acne.

• Environmental irritants, such as pollution, extreme heat and high humidity can aggravate Acne.

• Do not squeeze or pick at blemishes as this can aggravate Acne.

• Be very gentle when washing the skin. Do not scrub.

• Although easier said then done, try to avoid stress. Stress can aggravate Acne.




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