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Clinically termed Acne vulgaris and commonly called Acne, it is a skin disease that is caused by changes in the skin structures. It consists of hair follicles and its associated sebaceous glands that produce the skin preserving oils. In short, it is caused by the blockage of the follicles resulting in accumulation of the oil that cannot come out of the glands, creating an environment where bacterial or other type of infections begin to grow. Acne is most common during the teens or early adolescence (it affects more than 87% of the population). With some, the relentless invasion continues right up to their middle ages (this is sometimes referred to as adult acne).

Acne lesions are referred to as pimples, spots or zits. Typical acne lesions are comedones and inflammatory pustules, papules and nodules affecting the face and the upper neck though chest, shoulders and back are also not spared.

Although the actual reasons as to why some get acne and some do not is beyond medical science, one overwhelming factor seems to be the hormonal over activity that is evident during the pubescent period. Increase in the male sex hormones called androgens cause the glands to secrete more than average sebum which probably cannot be released due to blockage of the follicle by dead skin cells. Bacteria (P.acnes) further aggravates the situation while skin irritation and scratching activates inflammation.

Apart from all these, family/genetic history also lends a hand for the acne to develop in certain genetically affected adolescents. Though the development of acne in later years is rather uncommon, acne nevertheless, can manifest during pregnancy or due to disorders like the polycystic ovary syndrome or the very rare Cushing’s syndrome.

Acne Diagnosis

Acne is fairly easy to diagnose. ‘Pimples’ usually start out as a red bump and grow to be pustules (elevations of the skin filled with pus) which may eventually break or simply heal. Acne can range from small, pinpoint pimples to large lesions of the face (caused by many acne pimples converging together). When questioning a skin blemish, examine and make sure there is no scabbing over the entire reddened area (unless it had been scraped off). Constant ‘shedding’ of the top layer of skin can also be indicative of an ailment other than acne. If the area of skin affected is growing at an alarming rate, or the blemishes or pimples are moving to your armpits, trunk or feet, see a doctor immediately. However, if you are just noticing that you are starting to get pimples on your face and back area and they look similar to other acne you have seen, you probably have acne and can start taking steps to treat it before it starts to scar.

Acne Treatment

Acne treatment is big business. Because acne treatment is a very lucrative market, we are flooded with so many treatment types we have no idea where to start. Further, many of them simply do not work. Here we will explore the different types of acne treatment available and which seem to be more effective than others.

Laser Treatment is the miracle of the late 19th century. Laser treatments are now used for over 300 ailments and diseases ranging from ulcers to hair loss to acne skin care. In the case of acne, laser treatment is used to remove acne scars, and not necessarily to ‘cure’ acne. In most cases, people who have suffered severe or prolonged acne use laser treatment to remove permanent blemishes and scars that resulted from the acne. Laser acne treatment simply uses the heat of a laser to burn off the scars and blemishes – because of the lasers precision and effect on the skin, the cavities left behind are conducive to new, healthy skin development. New skin grows in where scars have been removed, leaving the face (or back) with far less noticeable blemishes. Laser therapy can take weeks or months to heal, and you may need to make more than one appointment. To date, there is not a more effective way to reduce permanent acne scars, but remember that laser therapy does not ‘cure’ acne in any way.

Steroidal Cream is another popular treatment option. Steroids became very popular in the second half of the 19th century and, like laser treatment, has many uses besides acne. The problem with steroids is that they almost always have adverse side effects. Among the trivial, nausea, rash, dizziness outbreaks. Long term use of steroids can also have adverse effects as we are just starting to see now in patients who use steroids for long term treatments such as IBS. Osteoporosis is one example. For acne, steroidal creams (accurately name corticosteroids) are prescribed by your physician. They are applied to the affected skin as a topical cream. They can relieve itchiness and rid the skin of blemishes. Usually the effect is only temporary and the cream needs to be used over and over again. Although doctors still prescribe corticosteroids for acne and other skin blemishes, it is important to note that some physicians recommend not using corticosteroids particularly for acne treatment.

Natural Acne treatments are now becoming more and more popular for many reasons. First, natural treatments in general are becoming popular because of the adverse effects of ‘medical miracles’ – pills are a good example. Because of the way pills are approved for distribution and the unprecedented amount of revenue accumulated by pharmaceutical companies, people are beginning to have a general distrust of synthetic medicine. Natural treatments are rarely harmful and in fact usually not only work just as well as synthetic medicines but also have other side benefits – as opposed to ‘side effects’. Examples of natural acne treatments are horsetail, aloe vera, tansy and lemon balm. There is no need to become a botanist to get these treatments as they are now sold regularly on the internet and in natural health stores complete with instructions on application and dosage. Sulphur lotion and Kali bromium are also other natural alternatives. Lavender cream followed by a juniper wash has been used for decades and still works as good as it did a century ago! Natural remedies for acne and all kinds of ailments are available everywhere.

Of course with all treatment methods, one of the best ways to help reduce acne is through proper hygiene. Remember to wash your face in the morning and before you go to sleep. Using just water alone can sometimes be more beneficial than soaps which can further clog pores. If you use an astringent cleanser, make sure your skin doesn’t dry out and get flaky. Experimenting with different cleansers will lead to finding a good cleanser that helps control acne and does not exacerbate the problem.

Teenage Acne

To most teenagers, the word acne spells disaster. Apart from the agonies and discomfort that it causes, acne shakes the very root of self-confidence that an adolescent needs so dearly to face the world. Sadness, despair and dejection can make these important years a dark time for many acne suffering teens. It is not the acne itself but the unsightly acne scars that create such a big problem that often also leads to depression. This is why acne treatment is so necessary. If you’re teen suffers from acne, it’s a good idea to make sure your child is not under any undue stress. Talk to them about school and try to talk to them about acne (a sensitive subject to teens). Remind them that the excessive hormones and hormonal changes in teenagers can be a cause for acne and that treatment will be easy and will in all likelihood only last for a couple of years before it is no longer necessary.

Acne Resources

The best acne resources are your family doctor or non biased medical websites focusing on health and healthcare options. If you are not sure if you have acne or another skin affliction, it is always best to see your doctor. Ask them about natural treatment vs. synthetic treatments. Your doctor will probably know more about your skin and allergies than you do and will give a sound opinion. Unfortunately, some doctors prefer to prescribe drugs for many reasons. Make sure they give a good reason as to why a prescription is a better approach than natural treatment. Remember, regardless of what treatment type you choose, proper hygiene is always the first step to controlling acne.

American Academy of Dermatology:

US National Library of Medicine:

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research:

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