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Acne: Definition, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

Acne is defined as a skin disease. It is not contagious and is due to increased secretion of sebum by the sebaceous gland coupled with inflammation. It is responsible for blackheads, or comedones.

The most common form is acne vulgaris, which is seen in four out of five teenagers and typically appear on the face and chest. Other forms include: neonatal acne, which disappears during the first weeks of life; pre-pubertal acne; late acne, in women over 25 years; acne rosacea; and acne generated by medication.

Symptoms of Acne

During puberty, the production of testosterone-based hormones results in oily skin, or hyper-seborrhea, recognizable by its shiny appearance. Sebum accumulates in the pores, which get clogged and result in comedones and microcysts, or inflammatory lesions.

Severe acne gives rise to the appearance of nodules exceeding five millimeters in diameter. In its aggravated form, acne conglobata, deep abscesses form on the face and also on the back.

Infantile acne, shows up through acne lesions on the face and/or back. This form of acne only lasts from a few weeks to a few months.

Diagnosis of Acne

The diagnosis of acne is made by a general practitioner or dermatologist. Typical juvenile acne does not require further examination. However, the appearance of acne in adult women may require a blood test and an ultrasound of the ovaries to determine the cause(s) of excessive secretion of male hormones in the patient.

Treatment of Acne

Acne should be treated with a topical treatment that is accompanied by daily cleansing of the skin with non-aggressive products made for oily skin and that reduce the production of sebum.

Depending on the type of acne, medical treatment may combine: products containing vitamin A; anti-inflammatory topical products; and topical antibiotics. (A doctor may also only prescribe one of these treatments.) For severe acne, or acne conglobata, an oral treatment may be added. This could take the form of: antibiotics; hormonal therapy in women; or even a potent derivative of vitamin A that requires parallel use with oral contraceptives, as this product taken during pregnancy can cause very serious problems in an unborn child.

Any scars may be partially removed by a professional using peels, laser abrasion, etc.

Prevention of Acne

The sun temporarily reduces the appearance of skin damage; however it also increases the formation of blackheads, so it is better to avoid it. Toiletries that are gentle, non-irritating, and non-alkaline, such as soaps with almond oil or creamy soaps, are preferred. Popping pimples is similar to cutting the skin and should thus be avoided.

Image: © Suzanne Tucker - Shutterstock.com

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