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There are many varieties of acne and many different treatment plans. Technically called acne vulgaris, this skin disease affects millions of Americans annually. Nearly 85% of people develop acne at some time between the ages of 12-25 years. Almost everyone suffers from outbreaks of pimples at some point in life, making acne one of the most common skin disorders. Understanding the facts about acne may be the first step towards finding a successful acne treatment and controlling your acne. Many teenagers outgrow their acne, but it is common for some women to need treatment into their late thirties. What Causes Acne? No one knows for sure exactly what causes acne, or why it usually begins in adolescence. Since the medical knowledge about acne is still relatively small, many misconceptions and rumors about what causes acne exists. No one factor causes acne. Acne lesions develop in the oil-producing structures of the skin called pilosebaceous follicles. Oil secretions build up beneath the blocked pore, providing a perfect environment for the skin bacteria Propionibacterium acnes to multiply uncontrolled. For unknown reasons skin cells of acne patients stick together in the pore (this may be made worse by grease, pomades, makeup, etc.). Deeper still acne causes cysts which are the worst form of acne and carry the possibility of permanent scarring. Genetics also play a role in the development of acne and thus there is a tendency for the skin disease to run in families. There are other skin disorders that may resemble acne, but are unrelated. Acne and Bacteria Pimples are often caused by Propionebacterium acnes, a common bacterium on the skin that feeds on sebum. The bacteria cause the surrounding tissues to become inflamed and acne is formed. The acne bacteria feeds off this mixture which leads to inflamed conditions. Acne-causing bacteria are anaerobic, meaning they cannot survive in an oxygenated environment. Bacteria called Corynebacterium acnes, which cause skin fats to break down into irritating chemicals, can also directly contribute to an outbreak. Acne in Teenagers
Due to the hormonal changes they experience, teenagers are more likely to develop acne. Most teens who develop acne have the milder form, called non- inflammatory acne. Hormonal disorders can complicate acne in girls. If are a teenager and you have acne, you have a lot of company. About 80 percent of all teenagers develop acne, but the disease may also start as late as age 25 or 30, particularly in women. Acne in Adults Just when you thought your "bad skin" days were over, adult acne strikes. Just when you've successfully navigated the ravages of adolescence on your skin, you wake up and find acne. There are various causes of adult acne. The new trend in medical circles is to discuss acne as a hormonal imbalance. Hormonal changes related to pregnancy or menstrual periods can cause or contribute to acne. Also, hormonal changes related to starting or stopping birth control pills can also cause acne. Excess emotional strain on the body can contribute to hormonal changes that have been known to cause acne as well. Adult acne is different from teenage acne and therefore your treatment approach should be different. Severe Acne Boys have more severe acne and develop it more often than girls. Severe acne can cause scars which will never disappear. All but the most severe grades of acne are controllable although not curable. The most severe type of acne consists of cysts (closed sacs) and nodules (hard swellings). Vigorous treatment of more severe types of acne can help prevent facial scarring. Treatment of Acne There is a myriad of products sold for the treatment of acne, many of them without any scientifically proven effects. The primary products used to treat acne are a pharmaceutical grade glycolic acid solution and a topical antibiotic. By applying a chemical solution to the skin, known as a chemical peel, mild scarring and certain types of acne may be treated. Non-prescription medications are available over the counter to treat mild forms of acne. Topical antibiotics are commonly used in the treatment of acne and are often prescribed along with a retinoid or benzoyl peroxide. Topical retinoids are used in the treatment of both inflammatory and non-inflammatory acne. The cost and duration of acne treatment with topical applications and oral antibiotics make standard therapy far from ideal. This is why researchers have been studying the effects of specific
peak wavelengths of light in the treatment of acne, with very successful results. Acne Medications Benzoyl peroxide inhibits the bacteria that cause acne. As with other acne medications, overexposure to extreme wind or cold or use of irritating skin care products may aggravate the skin. Most acne medications only mask the symptoms of acne and do nothing to stop the real cause of acne. There are even herbal based acne medications, such as tea tree oil. Today with proper treatment, acne can usually be dealt with successfully and controlled before it becomes totally unsightly. If a vigorous approach of study and application is made, the effects of acne can be greatly reduced and in some cases overcome entirely.
Jonathan Leger runs a website devoted to acne treatment and prevention.
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