WHAT IS ACNE?
Acne is a skin condition that occurs when the oil-secreting glands in the skin are
clogged and become inflamed or infected.
WHAT IS THE CAUSE?
Acne is caused by inflammation or infection of the oil glands in the skin and at the base
of hairs. In the teenage years, hormones stimulate the growth of body hair, and the oil
glands secrete more oil. The skin pores (where the hairs grow out) get clogged and
irritated from the excess oil. Whiteheads, blackheads, and pustules form in these areas.
Clogged pores can get infected by bacteria that are on the surface of the skin. This is
especially likely to happen if you squeeze or pick the pimples. Most teenagers have
Stress and too little rest can make acne worse.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
The symptoms of acne are:
1) whiteheads, which are closed plugged oil glands
2) blackheads, which are open plugged oil glands (the oil turns black when it's exposed
to the air)
3) pustules, which are red, inflamed, and plugged oil glands, sometimes filled with pus
Some pustules may be painful. In severe cases, cysts or nodules (large fluid-filled
bumps) may develop under the skin.
HOW IS IT DIAGNOSED?
Your healthcare provider will check your skin to see what type of problem you are
having (such as blackheads or cysts). Your provider will look to see where you are
having problems, for example, your face or back. Your provider will want to know how
long you have had the problem, how you have been caring for your skin, and what
treatments you have tried that have or have not worked.
HOW IS IT TREATED?
Treatment is aimed at keeping oil and dirt out of the pores and reducing inflammation.
You and your healthcare provider will talk about how you are currently taking care of
You will discuss which products, such as soaps and lotions, you should or should not
use. If you have been using prescription medications for your acne, bring the medicine
names or containers to your appointment.
Several products may be used to help prevent pimples or blackheads. Treatment
usually begins with putting products containing benzoyl peroxide on the areas of skin
with acne. If benzoyl peroxide alone is not effective, then you may also need to put an
antibiotic medicine on your skin, or your healthcare provider may prescribe an antibiotic
to be taken by mouth.
You may also need to use a skin cream or gel containing tretinoin (Retin-A).
Birth control pills are another treatment that might be prescribed for women. The pills
can be used to change the hormone levels and decrease acne. Birth control pills are
generally considered safe but they can have some side effects and health risks.
An oral medicine called isotretinoin is available for severe acne. However, women must
use isotretinoin very carefully. It can cause severe birth defects if a woman gets
pregnant while she is taking the drug or even if she has taken it 1 or 2 months before
getting pregnant. You must tell your healthcare provider if you are pregnant, think
you might be pregnant, have been trying to get pregnant, or are thinking about
getting pregnant BEFORE taking any acne medicine, especially isotretinoin.
If you have large cysts, your healthcare provider may inject them with medicine to try to
HOW LONG WILL THE EFFECTS LAST?
New whiteheads usually stop appearing after 4 to 6 weeks of treatment (the time it
takes your body to make a new layer of skin). However, you will probably need to
continue the treatment for several months. If you are taking an antibiotic, at some point
your healthcare provider will ask you to stop taking it to see if it is still needed.
Sometimes acne treatment must be continued for several years.
Many things may worsen acne temporarily. For example, women may notice that their
acne gets worse before each menstrual period. Try to figure out and change, when
possible, the things in your environment or lifestyle that make the acne worse.
HOW CAN I TAKE CARE OF MYSELF?
Follow the full treatment prescribed by your healthcare provider. In addition you can:
1) Wash your face gently 1 to 2 times a day with a mild soap. Change your washcloth
every day (bacteria can grow on damp cloth). Wash as soon as possible after you
2) Wash your hands often and keep your hands away from your face as much as
possible. Don't squeeze, pick, scratch, or rub your skin. If you squeeze pimples, you
may spread cause infection and infection can cause scars to form. Don't rest your face
on your hands while you read, study, or watch TV.
3) Shampoo your hair at least twice a week. Pull your hair away from your face when
you sleep. Style it away from your face during the day.
4) Although researchers have not been able to show that any foods cause acne, some
people have found that certain foods seem to worsen their acne. Keep a record of the
foods you eat and try to see if any foods appear to make your acne worse. Try avoiding those foods. 5) Avoid working in hot kitchens where greasy foods are cooked. 6) Avoid extreme stress if possible. Practice stress reduction strategies such as exercise, meditation, and counseling if you have a lot of stress. 7) Get physical exercise regularly. 8) Keep your follow-up appointments with your healthcare provider. Keep a record of the treatments you have tried and how they have worked. Let your provider know if your medicine isn't working. There are many alternatives for you and your provider to try, so don't give up! Developed by Phyllis G. Cooper, RN, MN, and RelayHealth. Published by RelayHealth. 2012 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved. This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional. Nova Scotia Telecare, Reviewed by Clinical Services Working group, December 2012
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