Acne (Spots)

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This is a common condition in teenagers and young adults. Boys are more commonly affected than girls. Acne spots are usually found on the face, but also could be on the neck, chest and back.

Unlike what some people think, acne is not caused by poor hygiene or by stress. It develops when there is a blockage of the skin pores. Our skin has oil- making glands underneath that keep our skin supple and smooth. The oil travels to the outer skin through tiny hair pores that we can see on our skin.

During teenage years, as our body changes in puberty, the hormones also cause the oil glands to produce more oil. Acne spots form when some of the hair pores are blocked by thickened skin and dead/ old skin cells.

Stages of Acne:

Mild acne

The blocked pores are seen as tiny spots called whiteheads or blackheads. The black of the blackheads is due to a skin pigment, and not due to dirt. Hence blackheads are more common in dark- skinned people.

Mild to Moderate Acne

Once the pores are blocked, the skin oil can become trapped under the skin and this can be seen as small spots called pimples or papules.

Moderate to severe Acne

The trapped oil can encourage skin bacteria to multiply. The bacteria within the trapped oil caused the area to become inflamed and red. The spots get larger and filled with pus (dead bacteria). Sometimes a small pitted scar may be left on the skin.

Treatment options for Acne

  1. No treatment: If acne is mild, it may resolve on its own, with time.
  2. Topical treatments ( gels, lotions and creams)
  3. Antibiotic tablets
  4. The combined contraceptive pill
  5. Isotretinoin tablets

What may make acne worse

  • Greasy or thick make-up
  • Tight head bands
  • Picking or squeezing the spots
  • Diets high in sugar and milk products
  • Excessive sweating
  • Some medicines like the mini contraceptive pill, steroid creams

Conclusion

Acne is not a life threatening condition but a lot of young people may find it very distressing as it may affect their appearance.

There are a lot of treatment options for acne. The right one for you may depend of a number of things, including the stage of your acne. So ensure you visit your doctor to discuss which one is appropriate for you.

By Dr Eb (Reference: Adapted from patient information leaflet @www.patient.co.uk)

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