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Acne is a general term used to describe blackheads, whitehead, pimples and deep lumps/cysts that occur on the face, neck, chest, shoulders, back and in more severe cases, the upper arm areas. Most teenagers experience some degree of acne; however, adults can continue to suffer from acne throughout their adult lives. Moderate to severe forms of acne can lead to permanent scarring when left untreated.
Types of Acne
There are many different types of acne, such as papule, nodule and pustule. These are words used to describe different types of lesions. Acne therapy seeks to rid a person of the lesions present and prevent the formation of new lesions. The type of acne treatment will depend on the type of acne exhibited, however, many of these treatments are in the form of acne creams.
Acne treatments interfere with the process by which acne develops. Acne is caused by androgen hormones that cause sebaceous glands to grow and produce more sebum. At the same time, changes in the skin lining the hair follicle to which sebaceous glands are attached occurs. The skin cells of the follicle lining shed faster and this increased sebum output causes clogged pores. A bacteria, called P. acnes, invades the clogged follicle and starts to rapidly multiply. The result is one of the many forms that acne takes.
Acne treatments act in one, or a combination, of the following ways:
- Reduce P. acnes bacteria
- Slow down the rate of shedding of skin cells
- Reduce the production of sebum
It is important to note that mild cases of acne can often be easily treated with over the counter topical acne cream, such as those containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. A dermatologist should be consulted prior to beginning any acne treatment. Often, several treatments are prescribed at the same time, to address the variety of causes of a person's acne.
The American Academy of Dermatology has developed an excellent resource for information about acne and skin diseases. Excellent resources and research articles on skin conditions can be found online at the Archives of Dermatology.
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