Acne and Skin Problems

Overview

Acne is a common skin condition, which affects most people at some point in their lives. Acne causes small bumps, spots and oily skin.

Most commonly, acne develops on the face, back or chest. It usually occurs in teenagers during puberty due to increase in hormonal secretions.

Skin contains minute pores that are connected with sebaceous glands through a thin tube called follicles. The sebaceous glands are present under the skin and produce a secretion called sebum (oil) to lubricate the skin & hairs and prevent them from drying. The follicle (thin tube) carries the sebum and dead skin cells on the surface. The hairs also grow through the follicles.

In acne patients, the glands produce too much sebum as a result the follicles are blocked. The sebum and dead cells mixture bulges outside as a raised skin (pimple). It also allows bacteria to grow in blocked follicles.

Skin problem like acne is not a serious threat to health. However, it could be a reason of emotional distress. If acne is severe, it could leave permanent marks.

Acne is more common in some families. Chances of developing acne increases if parents had it.

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms of Acne

There are 6 main type of spots caused by acne:

Dark Spots on the Skin

Pimples that look black. Dark spots appear dark because of hair pigment. It could take time for these spots to disappear

Acne Scars

When acne clears, it leaves permanent scars on the face. Scars are usually seen on the faces of people who get acne nodules and cysts

Papules

Papules are small, red bumps. These are inflamed lesions which are tender to the touch

Nodules

These are solid, large and tender lesions which are lodged deep in the skin

Cysts

Pus-filled, scar causing deep and painful lesions are known as cysts

Pustules

Pustules are papules which are topped by yellow or white pus filled lesions. These lesions may be red at their base

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes of Acne

Acne is caused when the hair follicles are blocked due to excess sebum secretion. When hair follicle becomes blocked with dead skin cells and oil, it forms whitehead, which turns black with time, forming a blackhead. If wall of hair follicle breaks near surface of skin, it forms cyst or acne nodules.

There are various causes or triggers of acne and skin problems. Some of those causes are listed below:

Hormonal Cause

Increase in hormones called androgens, could lead to acne. Rise in these hormones production in girls and boys during puberty could cause enlargement of sebaceous glands that causes more sebum production.

Hormonal changes during pregnancy and menstruation period may also trigger increase sebum production that can lead to cause acne.

Air Pollution

Environmental irritants due to air pollution is one of the triggers that could cause acne and other skin problems. In developing countries like Pakistan, it is one of the major causes. People living in industrial areas are more prone to develop acne.

Hot Weather or Humidity

Increased sweating in hot weather could cause itching. Hair follicles are connected to oil glands and these glands secrete more oil during hot weather, lubricating your skin. When hair follicles are clogged with oil, acne develops along with other skin problems.

Diet

Healthy or balanced diet is essential for good health in general and skin. Certain studies have indicated that various dairy products and products rich in carbohydrates could lead to skin problems. Along with that, eating greasy food also has an effect on formation of acne.

Oily Skin

When too much oil is produced by the hair follicles, it could lead to formation of acne. Oil travels up the hair, out of pore over the skin making it clogged with bacteria or dead skin. Dead skin accumulates in your pore and bacteria builds up there.

Risk Factors

Age

Acne can be developed at any age, but it is more common in teenagers

Family history (genes)

Acne is more common in some families. Chances of developing acne increases if parents had it.

Some factors such as stress, hard scrubbing of skin, various cosmetics and certain medicines can also cause skin problems and acne.

Repeated washing of face with soap does not improve acne. It is recommended not to wash the face with soap more than 2-3 times in a day.

Repeated friction or irritation (such as helmets, tight collars) of the skin may also trigger acne production.

Diagnosis and Testing

Acne or other skin problems could be diagnosed by the doctor by looking at skin.

This includes examination of face and back for various red nodules, spots, whiteheads, blackheads or papules.

Treatment depends upon number of spots and their severity.

Treatment

Acne Treatment

Acne or other skin problems are mostly treated by doctors who have specialized in skin problems (dermatologists).

Not all acne cases require treatment, only patients with severe symptoms should get the treatment.

Generally it takes about 6-8 weeks of treatment before some improvement can be noticed.  In many cases, patient experience worse skin before it starts to improve.

Self-care activities like cleaning your skin daily, shampooing your hair and not squeezing pimples (not removing blackhead) may help to avoid acne.

The goals of the treatment are

  1. Controlling acne development
  2. Preventing scarring or lesions
  3. Treating scars or marks to become less evident

Medicines could be oral or topical (applied on surface).

Treatment includes over the counter medicines, prescription medicines and some cosmetic procedures may be used to treat acne. If acne flares up around woman’s monthly menstrual period, hormonal therapy and combined oral contraceptive pills could prove beneficial.

Below medicines are usually use to treat severe acne

Laser, chemical peel, steroid injections and skin abrasion treatments could also be considered.

Procedures to reduce scars

Severe acne scars could be treated by injecting soft tissue fillers like fat or collagen under the skin to stretch indented scars. Chemical peels are also used to remove top layer of the scars. Dermabrasion is a method recommended for severe scarring. Apart from these treatments, laser resurfacing, light therapy and skin surgery could also be done to treat scars of acne.

However these procedures are not recommended as routine treatment

Complications

Acne Complications

Scarring is one of the most common complication of acne and other skin problems. Scarring could occur due to picking or squeezing the spots (blackhead removal). Therefore, a person having acne should avoid doing this.

Skin problem like acne is not a serious threat to health. However, it could be a reason of emotional distress. If acne is severe, it could leave permanent marks.

Add Comments