Acne vulgaris (also known as acne) is a common skin disease that occurs when oil and dead skin cells clog the hair follicles (pores). If you are a teen, chances are that you have some acne. Almost 8 out of 10 teenagers have acne, as do many adults.
Acne may not be life threatening, but it can have a devastating impact on the lives of sufferers. Performance in school, at work and in social situations declines as a result of the embarrassment of acne breakouts and scarring.
Acne is so common that it is considered a normal part of puberty. However, knowing this doesn’t make it any easier when you are looking at another new pimple on your face in the mirror! So, what is acne and what can you do about it?
Do I have acne?
Acne blemishes come in a variety of forms. There might be comedones (blackheads and whiteheads), papules (pimples), pustules, cysts (large, deep pimples) and nodules. These spots can appear on nearly any area of the body, but are most problematic where oil glands are concentrated – on the face, neck, chest, back and arms.
Why do I get acne?
Acne is caused by a combination of genetic and hormonal factors. Many acne sufferers might find out that they have family members who also struggled with acne.
Hormonal changes in puberty result in increased production of oil in the skin. Acne develops when oil glands around the hair follicles become plugged. Bacteria grow in the trapped oil and irritate the glands, causing redness, pain and swelling. Acne symptoms can range from mild (occasional outbreaks of individual pimples) to severe (frequent eruptions of swollen and deep cysts).
While teenagers are the patients most commonly affected by acne, many adults also struggle with acne. Adult female acne often has a hormonal component. It may worsen just prior to or during the start of the menstrual cycle.
What can I do about my acne?
Acne sufferers often face an ongoing battle to manage their breakouts. There is no cure or quick fix for acne so treatment is frequently needed over several months or years. The good news is that there are many treatments available to get your acne under control.
How acne is treated depends on the type of acne you have and how severe it is. Effective and timely treatment for acne can help prevent the development of acne scars.
Topical and oral medications such as antibiotics, retinoids and other preparations are typically used as the first course of treatment. Effective remedies for acne in women can include birth control pills or an oral medicine called spironolactone. Acne treatments can sometimes take several weeks to begin working, so it is important to stick to the regimen and follow up recommendations prescribed.
But, what if I have tried EVERYTHING?
Your dermatologist will evaluate your skin. They will be interested to know what treatments you have tried in the past. Sometimes just the right combination of treatments – even some medications you might have tried in the past – can make a big difference.
For patients with severe acne, acne that is leaving scars, or acne that just does not improve with other creams and antibiotics, your dermatologist might recommend Accutane ®. Accutane ® (isotretinoin) is an oral medication related to Vitamin A which can provide dramatic, long-lasting clearing of even the most stubborn acne. For over 30 years, Accutane has successfully helped patients with severe recalcitrant nodular acne. We are very comfortable prescribing Accutane for patients that need it.