The countless blogs, articles, tips, tricks and over-the-counter product recommendations that saturate our inboxes and newsfeeds make it clear that acne is more than a teenage rite of passage or a simple cosmetic issue.
Though it tends to be associated with hormones and teenagers, acne is America’s most common skin disease, affecting roughly 85% of the population. It affects all ages and races, both women and men alike, and can range from mild to severe.
It is estimated that some 80% of people between the ages of 11 and 30 will have chronic outbreaks of acne at some point. And, for many, acne continues to be an issue for many years after high school and college.
Not Just Cosmetic
Though it is often perceived as a cosmetic problem, acne is a serious dermatological condition caused by inflammation in pores that have been clogged with oil, dead skin cells or bacteria.
When a pore in your skin gets clogged with dead skin cells, the normal skin bacteria that live in the pore may grow. This, in turn, causes your immune system to react with redness and swelling, resulting in a pimple. Cystic acne happens when the inflammation goes deep into your skin, creating a red, tender bump that is often full of pus.
A cystic acne bump may hurt or itch. If the cyst bursts, the inflammation can worsen and cause scarring.
Other times, hair follicles can become clogged with oil or dead skin cells, causing acne. The pore can then cause the wall of the follicle to bulge, producing a whitehead, or to become plugged with bacteria and oil to produce a blackhead.
Most acne is typically found on the face, neck, back, chest, and shoulders. If left untreated, it can affect self-esteem or, in some cases, lead to permanent scarring and depression.
Why Consult a Board-Certified Dermatologist?
Hormones — including changes in hormones due to pregnancy or menopause — and some types of medications can trigger acne. Diet and stress can also play an important role.
Everyone’s acne is different. Acne can take many different forms and can range from mild to severe. Sometimes the inflammation lasts just a few days, and other times it can last for weeks or years. Acne may start in your teens and last well into your 40s or even 50s.
Symptoms can include whiteheads, blackheads, tender red bumps on the skin’s surface, painful lumps beneath the skin or pus-filled boils.
The most severe form of acne — cystic acne — occurs when oil and dead skin cells build up in the hair follicles and rupture. The result can be very painful and can lead to scarring.
These cysts can hurt or itch, and if they burst, the infection can spread to other parts of your skin, causing more breakouts.
Because of the potential complications and symptoms, it’s a good idea to consult a dermatologist to correctly identify your acne’s triggers, heal your skin and prevent reoccurrence.
Finding the Right Treatment
Waiting for acne to go away on its own or trying to take care of it by scrubbing your skin or squeezing blemishes can cause the infection to go deeper, making acne worse. Abrasive soaps and scrubs – and even too frequent washing or washing with water that is too hot — can also irritate the skin, worsening acne.
Like any other skin-related medical condition, acne should be treated by a doctor who specializes in skin care. While over-the-counter medications sometimes work on temporary cases of mild acne, they will not effectively treat cystic acne.
If you have cystic or recurrent acne that is not responding to over-the-counter products, it is important to see a board-certified dermatologist.
A dermatologist can give you a proper diagnosis and, if needed, prescribe oral antibiotics to help lower inflammation. Your dermatologist can also prescribe topical medications and treatments that are much stronger than what is available over the counter. These can include benzoyl peroxide, retinoids, and topical antibiotics such as clindamycin, erythromycin, and dapsone.
Accutane — which is now available as many different brands, including Claravis, Sotret, Myorisan, Amnesteem, and Absorica — can also be prescribed to treat all forms of acne. For most people, these medications clear skin relatively quickly and permanently of acne.
There are also several lifestyle and diet changes you can make to improve cystic acne, such as lowering stress levels and cutting down on processed foods, sugar and dairy.
If past acne has caused scarring, there are many available treatments options to improve the appearance of your skin, including chemical peels and laser therapy.
A dermatologist can tailor a medical treatment plan for your acne — as well as recommend supportive lifestyle changes – specific to your needs and skin type. By medically treating your acne under a professional’s guidance and care, you can go back to living your life with confidence.
Looking to Visit a Dermatologist for Acne Treatment?
Contact U.S. Dermatology Partners today to consult with a board-certified dermatologist to develop an acne treatment plan that is right for you. We have multiple locations throughout the country, so fill out our simple online form to get in touch with us. One of our local team members will reach out to you shortly to answer your questions or schedule an appointment for you to visit us soon.
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