Updated 16 December 2020
Symptoms of AcneThe signs of acne vary depending on the severity;
- Blackheads: These are blocked skin pores that are small and slightly raised.
- Whiteheads: These are small, hard lumps on the skin with a white centre.
- Pustules (Pimples): These are small pus filled spots on the skin that are usually soft to touch.
- Nodules: These are lumps underneath the skin that are both hard and painful to touch.
- Cystic: These are larger painful pus-filled lumps under the skin
What are the Causes of Acne?The skin naturally protects itself from bacteria by secreting an oil-based substance known as "sebum". Acne can appear when this sebum clogs the hair follicles. Also, reddish spots appear when the sebum clogged hair follicles are combined with "keratin" (dead skin cells). With the clogged hair follicles and a rapid increase in bacteria under the skin, this leads to a painful inflammation of the skin. The production of sebum and the emergence of acne is enhanced under certain situations, some of which include;
- Puberty: Fluctuations in the testosterone hormone levels at puberty in both male and female can lead to a spike in the production of sebum.
- Genetics: Some people are more predisposed to both high sebum production and acne.
- Diet: A diet consisting of foods that are high in fat should be avoided as it increases your vulnerability to acne.
- Stress: Stress is also a major cause of acne. When you are under some sort of stress, your body releases more stress hormones (cortisol), this makes your sebaceous glands produce more sebum which can then clog your hair follicles and lead to breakouts.
Other causes of Acne include;
- A lack of exercise,
- Overweight or obese.
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Diagnosing AcneYour doctor will carry out a physical examination when diagnosing Acne and this usually involves inspecting the different types of spots present on your back, chest and face. Your physician will examine the whiteheads, blackheads, pustules and nodules on your skin. On rare occasions your doctor may either scrape or swab pustules or lesions and send them to a laboratory for microscopy in order to rule out any concerns he or she may have about possible infection.
Acne TreatmentAfter several years, the appearance of acne on a person usually reduces significantly. However, there are a number of over-the-counter (OTC) medications that can help to clear up acne at a more quicker pace. A pharmacist can recommend an OTC drug that can help to clear up your mild acne. For some people, the treatment of acne can be a long-term concern. However, you should always seek the professional advice of your doctor or a specialist (dermatologist) before embarking on any long-term treatment or if OTC medications don’t help after 2 months. . Some of the options available to treat acne include;
- Treatment with Retinoids: These come as either an oral drug or topical lotion and involve a vitamin A treatment to help unclog hair follicles while also preventing any future clogging of your pores.
- Isotretinoin treatment: These may be prescribed for the treatment of severe acne.
- Treatment with antibiotics: Antibiotics can either be orally administered or applied on the skin. They help to destroy a significant number of acne causing bacteria while also helping to relieve inflammation.
- Low dose oral contraceptive pill: Used in women it may help to regulate the hormones responsible for causing acne.
- Microdermabrasion , laser or light therapy may help in the treatment of mild acne.