Acne is a common skin condition that occurs when the hair follicles become clogged with oil and dead skin cells. This can cause the pores to become blocked and lead to the formation of whiteheads, blackheads, pimples, nodules, or cysts. Acne most commonly affects the face, chest, and back, but it can occur anywhere on the body.
Acne is a chronic condition that can range in severity from mild to severe. Mild cases of acne may only involve a few blackheads or whiteheads, while more severe cases can involve deep, painful nodules and cysts that can lead to scarring.
The symptoms of acne can vary depending on the type and severity of the condition. The most common symptoms of acne include:
1. Comedones: These are non-inflammatory lesions that can appear as whiteheads (closed comedones) or blackheads (open comedones). They occur when the hair follicles become clogged with oil and dead skin cells.
2. Papules: These are small, raised, red bumps that occur when the hair follicles become inflamed. They may be tender to the touch.
3. Pustules: These are similar to papules but contain pus, which gives them a white or yellow appearance.
4. Nodules: These are large, painful, solid lesions that occur deep within the skin. They can be red, swollen, and may take weeks or even months to heal.
5. Cysts: These are large, painful, pus-filled lesions that can cause scarring if left untreated.
6. Oily skin: Excess oil production can cause the skin to appear shiny or greasy.
7. Scarring: Severe or untreated acne can lead to permanent scarring.
Acne can occur on any part of the body, but it most commonly affects the face, chest, and back. The symptoms of acne can cause physical discomfort and can also have a significant impact on a person's self-esteem and emotional well-being. If you are experiencing symptoms of acne, it is important to seek medical advice to determine the best treatment options for your specific case.
Acne is a common skin condition that occurs when hair follicles become clogged with oil and dead skin cells. The exact cause of acne is not fully understood, but it is thought to be the result of several factors, including:
1. Excess oil production: The sebaceous glands in the skin produce an oily substance called sebum, which helps to keep the skin lubricated. In some people, the sebaceous glands produce too much oil, which can lead to clogged pores and acne.
2. Dead skin cells: As skin cells die, they can become trapped in the pores, along with the excess oil. This can lead to the formation of comedones (blackheads and whiteheads).
3. Bacteria: The Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) bacteria are found naturally on the skin, but in some people, they can overgrow and cause inflammation, leading to the formation of pimples and other acne lesions.
4. Hormonal changes: Hormonal changes, such as those that occur during puberty, pregnancy, or the menstrual cycle, can increase the production of sebum and contribute to acne.
5. Certain medications or chemicals: Some medications, such as corticosteroids and lithium, can cause acne as a side effect. Exposure to certain chemicals or pollutants can also contribute to the development of acne.
It is important to note that while these factors can contribute to the development of acne, the exact causes of acne can vary from person to person, and a combination of factors may be involved in any given case.
In an in person diagnosis, a doctor or dermatologist can diagnose acne based on a review of your skin and a discussion of your medical history. The doctor will examine the skin to identify the type and severity of acne lesions present, such as whiteheads, blackheads, pimples, nodules, or cysts.
Some online dermatology services like Rosemary Health offer virtual consultations with a doctor. Patients can upload detailed photos for the doctor and fill out a health questionnaire that will include medical history and skin goals. The doctor can examine photos or videos of the affected areas and also video call the patient to make a diagnosis online.
During an online consultation, the doctor may ask you questions about your medical history, such as when the acne first appeared, how long you have been experiencing it, any previous treatments you have tried, and any medications you are taking. They may also ask for photos or videos of the affected areas, which can help them to identify the type and severity of the acne lesions present. All your answers that you discuss will stay completely confidential.
In some cases, an in-person examination may be necessary to confirm the diagnosis and determine the most effective treatment plan. In that case, the online doctor will refer you to the right healthcare professional for you.
To understand how Rosemary Health works check out How it works.
Treatment for acne can vary depending on the type and severity of the condition. The following are some common treatment options for acne:
1. Topical medications: These are medications that are applied directly to the skin, such as benzoyl peroxide, retinoids, and topical antibiotics. They work by reducing inflammation and killing bacteria that can contribute to acne.
2. Oral medications: These are medications that are taken orally, such as antibiotics, hormonal therapies, and isotretinoin. They work by reducing inflammation, killing bacteria, or regulating hormones that can contribute to acne.
3. Skincare routines: Regular and gentle cleansing of the skin with a mild soap or cleanser can help to remove excess oil and dead skin cells that can contribute to acne. Over-the-counter products containing salicylic acid, alpha-hydroxy acids, or benzoyl peroxide can also be helpful in reducing acne.
4. Lifestyle changes: Certain lifestyle changes, such as a healthy diet, regular exercise, stress reduction, and adequate sleep can help to improve overall skin health and reduce the severity of acne.
5. In-office procedures: In some cases, in-office procedures such as chemical peels, microdermabrasion, or laser therapy can help to improve the appearance of acne and reduce scarring.
It is important to work with a healthcare professional to determine the best treatment plan for your specific case of acne.
A doctor may prescribe a variety of prescription treatments for acne, depending on the type and severity of the condition. Some common prescription treatments for acne include:
1. Topical antibiotics: These work by killing bacteria that can contribute to acne.
2. Topical retinoids: These are medications derived from vitamin A. They work by unclogging pores, reducing inflammation, and promoting skin cell turnover.
3. Oral antibiotics: These are medications taken orally and work by reducing inflammation and killing bacteria that can contribute to acne.
4. Oral contraceptives: These are medications containing estrogen and progestin that can regulate hormones that can contribute to acne in some people.
5. Isotretinoin: This is a powerful oral medication used to treat severe, cystic acne that has not responded to other treatments. It works by reducing oil production, unclogging pores, and reducing inflammation. This medication can only be prescribed by a dermatologist in Australia.
6. Combination therapy: A doctor may recommend combining different prescription treatments, such as a topical retinoid and an oral antibiotic, to effectively treat acne.
It is important to work with a healthcare professional to determine the best treatment plan for your specific case of acne. Some prescription treatments may have side effects, and regular follow-up appointments may be necessary to monitor progress and adjust the treatment plan as needed. Acne treatments commonly take several weeks or months to show results.
The most effective treatment for acne can vary depending on the individual's skin type, skin concerns, and the root cause of their acne. It is important to work with a healthcare professional to determine the best treatment plan for your specific case of acne.
Recurring mild to moderate acne may respond well to prescription topical treatments such as topical antibiotics or retinoids, while severe acne may require oral antibiotics or retinoids. For those with sensitive skin, it is important to be cautious when using certain acne treatments, as they may cause further irritation or inflammation. In some cases, your doctor may recommend gentle, non-irritating skincare products or alternative treatments such as light therapy or chemical peels.
Acne isn’t caused by a lack of hygiene or ‘dirty’ skin – so no amount of cleansing, scrubbing or exfoliating will get rid of it. In fact, this can inflame skin and make everything worse! Acne is simply a medical condition that needs a medical solution. Stress is also commonly thought to cause a flare up if you are prone to acne, but it is not the cause. There is still no conclusive scientific evidence to suggest that diet causes acne. High-glycaemic foods and dairy can trigger breakouts for some (but not all!) people who are already predisposed to acne.
Purging is one of the possible initial side effects of prescription retinoid use, especially if you had a lot of comedones (bumps under the skin) to start with. What you will also have, but can’t see, are ‘microcomedones’ – pores that were already blocked, but invisible to the eye. Retinoids speed up the shedding of skin cells to regulate the sticky skin cells that block your pores and lead to pimples. Unfortunately, in the initial stages of treatment, at the same time as treating your acne, you are also temporarily blocking pores with extra skin cells, pushing existing comedones to the surface, and causing microcomedones to turn into ‘actual’ comedones. So the pimples that might have surfaced over the next few months can all appear at once!
If you are one of the unlucky few that this happens to, it is definitely NOT fun. If you already suffer from acne, it will feel like your treatment is making things worse, not better. The good news is, that as you continue to use your retinoid and these blockages are pushed to the surface and clear, you can expect fewer new breakouts. The other good news is that purging gets a lot more air time on social media than it occurs in real life, so it may not even happen for you!
In some cases, acne may go away on its own without treatment. This is particularly true for mild cases of acne. However, in most cases, acne will persist and may even worsen without treatment. If left untreated, acne can lead to scarring and can have a negative impact on a person's self-esteem and quality of life.
The duration of acne can also vary depending on the individual and the severity of their condition. Some people may only experience acne during adolescence, while others may continue to experience acne into adulthood.
It is generally recommended to seek treatment for acne, particularly if it is causing physical or emotional distress. A healthcare professional can help to determine the best treatment plan for your specific case of acne and can provide guidance on managing the condition. With the appropriate treatment and skincare regimen, acne can often be effectively managed and control.