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Acne

A chronic skin disorder in which there is inflammation of the sebaceous glands at the base of hair follicles in the skin. 

Types

The most usual type of acne is often known as acne vulgaris, which almost always occurs during puberty although it can occur at any stage in life.  Chemical acne is caused by exposure of the skin to particular chemicals and oils.  This results in the development of acne in areas where the chemical has come into contact with the skin. Some prescribed drugs such as corticosteroid drugs can also cause acne.

Cause

Acne spots are created by the obstruction of hair follicles by excess sebum (the oily substance that is secreted by the sebaceous glands).  Bacteria thrive in the follicle causing inflammation.  Hormonal changes at puberty including heightened levels of androgen hormones (male sex hormones).  In both males and females, stimulate the production of sebum.  Genetic pre-disposition may also be a contributory factor of acne

Symptoms

Acne develops in areas in which there is a large concentration of sebaceous glands, typically the centre of the chest, upper back, shoulders, around the neck and the face.  Milia (whiteheads), comedones (blackheads), nodules (firm swellings under the skin), and cysts (larger fluid filled swellings) are the most frequent types of spots.  Some particularly cystic spots leave scars after they heal, which may cause emotional distress

Treatment and outlook

There is no immediate cure for acne, although washing the affected areas at least twice a day with a mild soap may help to keep it under control.  Over-the-counter topical drug treatments such as azelaic acid or benzoyl peroxide are often successful.  Prescribed topical antibiotic drugs such as retinoic acid or clindamycin (a derivative of vitamin A) can be used to treat moderate acne.  An alternative treatment is with oral antibiotics often tetracycline drugs.  In extremely severe cases of acne, isotretinoin may be administered under hospital supervision.  In all cases exposure to ultra violet light (either artificial or natural) can also be beneficial.  However it is highly important not to burn the skin.

At the end of teenage years acne often clears up and improves slowly over time


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