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Education Library: Acne

Introduction

Acne, commonly referred to as pimples, blemishes, and zits, is a common skin condition that most people experience at some point in life, most often as teenagers. Acne results when tiny openings in the skin become plugged. Acne is treated with self-care measures, over-the-counter products, or professional medications from a doctor.

Anatomy

The skin has numerous small openings that contain hair follicles and sebaceous glands. An oily substance (sebum) is produced by the sebaceous glands. The sebum rises to the skin's surface to moisturize the outer skin layer.

Causes

Acne is a common condition that the majority of people experience. Acne develops when sebum and dead skin cells collect and plug a hair follicle. Trapped bacteria multiply, leading to redness, swelling, and pus-filled bumps on the skin.

Symptoms

Adolescents and adults can develop acne on the face, shoulders, back, buttocks, and chest-- places where oil glands are most active. Acne appears as inflamed bumps on the skin. There are a few types of acne:

  • Blackhead
    A blackhead is a clogged follicle that remains open with a darkened surface.
  • Whitehead
    A whitehead is a clogged follicle that remains closed, producing a white bump on the skin.
  • Pimple
    A pimple results from inflammation that has moved under the skin. A pimple can appear as a raised red bump or a raised red bump with a pus-filled top.
  • Cyst
    Cysts are infections that occur deep within the hair follicle. A cyst feels like a lump beneath the skin. Cysts can be large and painful.

Diagnosis

A diagnoses of acne is made by a doctor based on the appearance of the skin. Additional tests are usually not necessary. In some cases, a cyst sample is examined to rule out a more serious staph infection.

Treatment

There are many self-care measures to take to manage acne. You should never try to squeeze or "pop" a pimple because it can lead to skin infection and scars. Clean your face by gently washing it with a mild soap once or twice a day. Avoid excessive cleansing or touching your face with your hands. Avoid greasy or oily creams or make-up. There are numerous over-the-counter blemish products to apply directly to the skin. Such products contain medications, such as benzoyl peroxide, sulfur, resorcinol or salicylic acid that fight bacteria and dry the skin.

Am I at Risk?

Acne develops most frequently in teenagers because of hormonal changes, although acne can occur at any age. Females may develop acne in association with their menstrual period or birth control related hormonal changes. Other risk factors for acne include: • Pregnancy • Heredity. If your parents had acne, you have a higher risk of developing the skin condition. • Skin Friction • Oily products (cosmetics) applied to the skin • Certain medications, such as steroids, birth control pills, or testosterone • Significant sweating and humidity

Complications

Significant acne can lead to scarring. For some people, acne can contribute to poor self-esteem.

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From The Doctor's Desk

Acne-Free Skin Is Very Important to Teenagers

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