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Acne

What is Acne

Acne vulgaris (commonly called acne) is a common human skin disease, characterized by areas of skin with multiple no inflammatory follicular papules or comedones and by inflammatory papules, pustules, and nodules in its more severe forms. Acne vulgaris mostly affects the areas of skin with the densest population of sebaceous follicles; these areas include the face, the upper part of the chest, and the back.

Severe acne is inflammatory, but acne can also manifest in no inflammatory forms. Acne lesions are commonly referred to as pimples, blemishes, spots, zits, or simply acne. Acne lesions are caused by changes in pilosebaceous units, skin structures consisting of a hair follicle and its associated sebaceous gland, changes which require androgen stimulation.

Acne occurs most commonly during adolescence, affecting more than 96% of teenagers, and often continues into adulthood. In adolescence, acne is usually caused by an increase in male sex hormones, which people of both genders accrue during puberty. For most people, acne diminishes over time and tends to disappear—or at the very least decrease—after one reaches one’s early twenties.

There is, however, no way to predict how long it will take to disappear entirely, and some individuals will carry this condition well into their thirties, forties and beyond.

The face and upper neck are the most commonly affected, but the chest, back and shoulders may have acne as well. The upper arms can also have acne, but lesions found there are often keratosis pilaris, not acne. Typical acne lesions are comedones, inflammatory papules, pustules and nodules.

Some of the large nodules were previously called “cysts” and the term nodulocystic has been used to describe severe cases of inflammatory acne. The “cysts,” or boils that accompany cystic acne, can appear on the buttocks, groin, and armpit area, and anywhere else where sweat collects in hair follicles and perspiration ducts. Cystic acne affects deeper skin tissue than does common acne.

Aside from scarring, its main effects are psychological, such as reduced self-esteem and, according to at least one study, depression or suicide. Acne usually appears during adolescence, when people already tend to be most socially insecure. Early and aggressive treatment is therefore advocated by some to lessen the overall impact to individuals.

Causes of Acne

Acne is known to be partly hereditary, but no particular genetic cause has been identified. Acne is not contagious or infectious. Several factors are known to be linked to acne:

  • Family/Genetic history. The tendency to develop acne runs in families. For example, school-age boys with acne often have other members in their family with acne as well. A family history of acne is associated with an earlier occurrence of acne and an increased number of retentional acne lesions.
  • Hormonal activity, such as menstrual cycles and puberty. During puberty, an increase in male sex hormones called androgens causes the follicular glands to grow larger and make more sebum. Inflammation, skin irritation or scratching of any sort will activate inflammation.
  • Stress. While the connection between acne and stress has been debated, scientific research indicates that “increased acne severity” is “significantly associated with increased stress levels.” The National Institutes of Health (USA) list stress as a factor that “can cause an acne flare.” A study of adolescents in Singapore “observed a statistically significant positive correlation between stress levels and severity of acne.”
  • Hyperactive sebaceous glands, secondary to the three hormone sources above.
  • Bacteria in the pores. Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) is the anaerobic bacterium that causes acne. In-vitro resistance of P. acnes to commonly used antibiotics has been increasing.
  • Use of anabolic steroids.
  • Exposure to certain chemical compounds. Chloracne is particularly linked to toxic exposure to dioxins, namely Chlorinated dioxins.

Acne on  arm

Several hormones have been linked to acne: the androgens testosterone, dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS), as well as insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-I).

Development of acne vulgaris in later years is uncommon, although this is the age group for Rosacea which may have similar appearances. True acne vulgaris in adult women may be a feature of an underlying condition such as pregnancy and disorders such as polycystic ovary syndrome or the rare Cushing’s syndrome. Menopause-associated acne occurs as production of the natural anti-acne ovarian hormone estradiol fails at menopause. The lack of estradiol also causes thinning hair, hot flashes, thin skin, wrinkles, vaginal dryness, and predisposes to osteopenia and osteoporosis as well as triggering acne (known as acne climacterica in this situation

Acne Treatment

There are many products available for the treatment of acne, many of which are without any scientifically proven effects. Generally speaking, successful treatments show little improvement within the first two weeks, instead taking a period of approximately three months to improve and start flattening out. Many treatments that promise big improvements within two weeks are likely to be largely disappointing. However, short bursts of cortisone can give very quick results, and other treatments can rapidly improve some active spots, but usually not all active spots.

Modes of improvement are not necessarily fully understood but in general treatments are believed to work in at least 4 different ways (with many of the best treatments providing multiple simultaneous effects):

  • normalizing shedding into the pore to prevent blockage
  • killing Propionibacterium acnes
  • anti-inflammatory effects
  • hormonal manipulation

A combination of treatments can greatly reduce the amount and severity of acne in many cases. Those treatments that are most effective tend to have greater potential for side effects and need a greater degree of monitoring, so a step-wise approach is often taken. Many people consult with doctors when deciding which treatments to use, especially when considering using any treatments in combination. There are a number of treatments that have been proven effective:

Hygiene

Proper washing and skin care can help to remove bacteria and oils which cause acne. Some anecdotal reports indicate placing a clean towel over one’s pillow each night can help prevent contaminating the pillow with bacteria that cause acne, and reintroducing them to the face. Additionally, cleaning the hands before touching the affected area can prevent transmission of the bacteria from one part of the body to another.

Topical bactericidal

Widely available OTC bactericidal products containing benzoyl peroxide may be used in mild to moderate acne. The gel or cream containing benzoyl peroxide is applied, twice daily, into the pores over the affected region. Bar soaps or washes may also be used and vary from 2% to 10% in strength.

Acne Home Remedy

When creams and pills don’t seem to work. Strawberries might do the job. Strawberries are said to have strong anti acne-activity. Strawberry contains alpha-hydroxy acid which sloughs off dead skin cells revealing new youthful skin. Papayas also contain such enzymes and help in repairing of skin.

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