Acne is a common condition that causes blocked pores, pimples, cysts and other
lesions on the skin of the face, neck, chest, back, shoulders and upper arms. Acne
affects over 17 million people in the US, making it the most common skin disease in the
country. While mostly teenagers are affected, adults of any age can suffer from acne.
Acne is not life-threatening, but can lead to physical disfigurement and emotional
distress. There are several effective treatment methods available to help improve the
appearance of the skin and prevent future breakouts from occurring.
Causes of Acne
Acne develops on the skin when the pores become clogged, which may occur as a
result of an overproduction of oil, a buildup of bacteria or shedding of dead skin cells
that irritate the pores and hair follicles. When these substances build up in the hair
follicle, they form a soft plug that forces the follicle wall to bulge and protrude from the
skin, causing a lesion to develop.
The cause of excess oil production is unknown, but is believed to be caused by a
combination of several factors, including hormones, bacteria, heredity and certain
medications. Contrary to popular belief, chocolate or other foods and dirt do not cause
Symptoms of Acne
Patients with acne may experience:
- Other forms of inflammation on the skin
Symptoms most commonly appear on the face, neck, shoulders, back or chest,
although they can appear anywhere on the skin. These symptoms can come and go,
and may flare up at certain times as a result of hormonal or environmental triggers such
as pregnancy, menstrual periods, greasy cosmetic or hair products, high levels of
humidity or certain medications.
While acne does not usually lead to any serious health conditions, it can cause
permanent scarring and damaging emotional effects for patients of any age. Patients
should seek dermatologic treatment for acne if symptoms do not respond to over-thecounter
treatment methods or scarring develops as the acne clears.
Treatment of Acne
Treatment for acne aims to reduce oil production and increase the speed of skin cell
turnover to prevent new blemishes from developing, and to also reduce inflammation to
help treat current symptoms. This can be done through a combination of topical
treatment, antibiotics, isotretinoin or oral contraceptives. These treatment methods can
take up to eight weeks before results are visible, and acne may get worse before getting
Topical ointments applied to the affected area are often the first form of treatment used
for acne, and may contain benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid or lactic acid as an active
ingredient to treat mild acne. Moderate cases can often be treated through prescription
oral antibiotics used to reduce bacteria and inflammation, which are often combined
with topical treatments. Isotretinoin (Accutane) may be prescribed for severe cases of
acne that do not respond to other treatment methods.
Certain procedures may be recommended by your doctor to treat scarring caused by
acne. These procedures may include skin fillers, dermabrasion, microdermabrasion,
laser treatment and others. Many patients experience effective results from several
treatment sessions and can enjoy smooth, clear skin after acne.
While there is no sure way to prevent future breakouts from occurring, there are certain home
measures patients can take to reduce the risk of breakouts, including avoiding heavy makeup,
removing makeup before going to bed, wearing loose-fitting clothing and using over-the-counter
creams or gels to help dry excess oil on the skin. Patients should also avoid picking or
squeezing blemishes, and should be aware of what comes in contact with the face, as it can
bring more unwanted bacteria to the skin.