The term acne originates from the alteration of the Greek word acme , meaning a skin rash.
In general, acne can be defined as a skin disorder that manifests itself through different lesions on the skin, in the form of various types of bumps. These can be whiteheads, blackheads, pimples, and cysts. It is also known by other more complex names such as cystic acne, acne vulgaris, or pimples.
What causes these annoying bumps? The skin is covered by tiny holes called hair follicles, or pores. Pores contain sebaceous glands (also called oil glands) that produce sebum , an oil that moistens hair and skin.
Each pore, then, is an opening to a channel called a follicle, which contains a hair and a sebaceous gland.
Normally, the sebaceous glands help keep the skin lubricated and help remove old skin cells. When the glands produce too much fat or oil, the pores can become clogged, collecting dirt, debris, and bacteria. The blockage is called a plug or comedone .
When the surface of the plug or comedone darkens, they are called pimples . When the plug breaks, dead skin cells can enter, which with the accumulated fat and bacteria in the area form infected nodules called pustules .
If these infected areas of the skin are deep, they can expand to form cysts. A sebaceous cyst forms when the sebaceous gland continues to produce oil. Instead of breaking through the wall of the follicle, the follicle continues to enlarge and form a hard lump (known as a cyst ) under the skin.
The cyst is normally not painful unless it becomes infected. Acne usually appears on the face and shoulders but can spread to the trunk, arms, and legs.
The obstructive condition is common at puberty but can appear in both sexes and at all ages and is considered an abnormal response to normal levels of the male hormone testosterone .
Most people's response subsides over time, and acne tends to clear up or at least subside after puberty; however, there is no way to predict how long it will take to clear up completely, and some individuals will continue to suffer from acne for decades afterward. Acne affects a large number of human beings at some point in their lives and there seems to be a familial tendency to develop acne.
Three out of four teenagers have acne of some degree, probably caused by hormonal changes that stimulate the sebaceous glands to produce oil. Other hormonal changes, such as those that occur during a menstrual period or pregnancy, and those caused by the use of birth control pills or stress, also aggravate acne.
There are two clinical manifestations: a mild one, called polymorphous juvenile acne or superficial acne, and a more serious one, called cystic acne and conglobata or deep acne.
Dirt is not the cause of acne, but dirt and oil on the face can aggravate the problem. Other factors that increase the possibility of acne appearance are hormonal changes, exposure to extreme climates, stress, oily skin, endocrine disturbances, certain tumors, and the use of certain medications (such as cortisone, testosterone, estrogens, and others). ). Acne is not contagious. The tendency to have acne can persist until the thirty or forty years.
The tendency to have acne is inherited. Although it cannot be prevented, proper hygiene can help lessen the effects.
Treatment is designed to prevent new lesions from forming and to help old lesions heal.
Local/topical medications that dry up fat and/or promote peeling of the skin often contain benzoic peroxide, sulfide, resorcinol, salicylic acid or etetronin, or retinoic acid (Retin-A).
If the lesions become infected, antibiotics such as tetracycline or erythromycin may be prescribed. Topical antibiotics (applied right to the affected area of skin) such as clindamycin or erythromycin are also used to control the infection.
Oral tetracycline is not indicated in children until they have all their permanent teeth, as it can discolor teeth that are still forming.
The synthetic vitamin (isotretinoin, Roacutan®) has been shown to be beneficial in the treatment of severe acne. However, pregnant women and sexually active adolescents should not take this medication.
Another form of treatment consists of the administration of local or injected cortisone.
There are also surgical procedures such as professional skin peeling (chemical) peeling the skin, and dermabrasion, or the removal or drainage of cysts.
Small sun exposures improve acne. However, excessive exposure to the sun or ultraviolet rays is not recommended because it increases the risk of skin cancer.
There are home treatments that can reduce the effects of acne:
• Clean skin gently but thoroughly with soap and water, removing all dirt or makeup. Washing as often as needed controls grease. It must be done at least daily and after exercise. Use a clean cloth every day to prevent infection.
• Steam or warm wet compresses to open clogged pores.
• Wash hair with shampoo at least twice a week. Use an anti-dandruff shampoo if necessary.
• Comb hair back to keep face clean.
• Use local astringents to remove excess oil.
• Do not scratch, touch or rub the lesions. These actions can increase skin damage.
• Wash your hands before and after caring for your injuries to reduce the risk of infection.
• Do not rest your face on your hands. This can irritate the skin on the face.
• Identify and avoid anything that aggravates acne. This includes taking care of foods, lotions, makeup, etc. Avoid greasy creams or cosmetics, which can aggravate acne.
• Acne often improves in the summer. There are even foods that aggravate acne, which can be tolerated in summer but not in winter.
Acne is normally chronic from puberty to adulthood, but eventually subsides. It usually responds well to treatment after a few weeks, but it can crop up from time to time.
It is not dangerous except that it is left untreated and becomes a severe infection. Scars normally appear in people not treated for their acne.
Apply home treatment and call your doctor (dermatologist) if signs of complications appear or if acne is getting progressively worse.