Saturday, February 9, 2013

Common Questions Asked by People with Acne

Acne is a very common disease. People who have it tend to have similar kinds of questions about it and its treatment. This section addresses some of the common questions asked by people with acne. Please remember that your dermatologist is always the best source of specific information about your individual health issues, including acne.

Questions and Answer does follows:

1. What causes acne?
Acne
The causes of acne are linked to the changes that take place as young people mature from childhood to adolescence (puberty). The hormones that cause physical maturation also cause the sebaceous (oil) glands of the skin to produce more sebum (oil). The hormones with the greatest effect on sebaceous glands are androgens (male hormones), which are present in females as well as males, but in higher amounts in males.

Sebaceous glands are found together with a hair shaft in a unit called a sebaceous follicle. During puberty, the cells of the skin that line the follicle begin to shed more rapidly. In people who develop acne, cells shed and stick together more so than in people who do not develop acne. When cells mix with the increased amount of sebum being produced, they can plug the opening of the follicle. Meanwhile, the sebaceous glands continue to produce sebum, and the follicle swells up with sebum.

In addition, a normal skin bacteria called P. acnes, begins to multiply rapidly in the clogged hair follicle. In the process, these bacteria produce irritating substances that can cause inflammation. Sometimes, the wall of the follicle bursts, spreading inflammation to the surrounding skin. This is the process by which acne lesions, from blackheads to pimples to nodules, are formed.

2. I wash my face several times a day. Why do I still get acne?
Many people still believe that acne is caused by dirty skin. The truth is, washing alone will not clear up or prevent acne. Washing does, however, help remove excess surface oils and dead skin cells. Many people use all kinds of products, including alcohol-based cleansers, and scrub vigorously, only to irritate the skin further and worsen their acne. Washing the skin twice a day gently with water and a mild soap is usually all that is required. However, acne is actually caused by a variety of biologic factors that are beyond the control of washing. For that reason, you should use appropriate acne treatments for the acne. 

3. Does stress cause acne?
Stress is commonly blamed for the development of acne. Stress can have many physiologic effects on the body, including changes in hormones that may theoretically lead to acne. In some cases the stress may actually be caused by the acne lesions, not the other way around! If the acne is being treated effectively, stress is not likely to have much impact on the majority of people.

4. I never had acne as a teenager. Why am I now getting acne as an adult?
Usually, acne begins at puberty and is gone by the early 20s. In some cases, acne may persist into adulthood. Such types of acne include severe forms that affect the body as well as the face (which afflict males more than females) and acne associated with the menstrual cycle in women. In other cases, acne may not present itself until adulthood. Such acne is more likely to affect females than males.
There are several reasons for this. As females get older, the pattern of changes in hormones may itself change, disposing sebaceous glands to develop acne. Ovarian cysts and pregnancy may also cause hormonal changes that lead to acne. Some women get acne when they discontinue birth control pills that have been keeping acne at bay. Sometimes young women may wear cosmetics that are comedogenic-that is, they can set up conditions that cause comedones to form.

5. What role does diet play in acne?
Acne is not caused by food. Following a strict diet will not, clear your skin. While some people feel that their acne is aggravated by certain foods, particularly chocolate, colas, peanuts, shellfish and some fatty foods, there is no scientific evidence that suggests food causes or influences acne. Avoid any foods which seem to worsen your acne and, for your overall health, eat a balanced diet-but diet shouldn't really matter if the acne is being appropriately treated. 

6. Does the sun help acne?
Many patients feel that sunlight improves their acne lesions and go to great lengths to find sources of ultraviolet light. There is no proven effect of sunlight on acne. In addition, ultraviolet light in sunlight increases the risk of skin cancer and early aging of the skin. It is, therefore, not a recommended technique of acne management, especially since there are many other proven forms of treatment for acne. Moreover, many acne treatments increase the skin's sensitivity to ultraviolet light, making the risk of ultraviolet light exposure all the worse.

7. What is the best way to treat acne?
Everyone's acne must be treated individually. If you have not gotten good results from the acne products you have tried, consider seeing a dermatologist. Your dermatologist will decide which treatments are best for you. For more information about the types of acne treatments that are available, and for basic acne treatment guidelines, please see Acne Treatments in the main part of AcneNet.


8. Is it harmful to squeeze my blemishes?
Yes. In general, acne lesions should not be picked or squeezed by the patient. In particular, inflammatory acne lesions should never be squeezed. Squeezing forces infected material deeper into the skin, causing additional inflammation and possible scarring.

9. Can anything be done about scarring caused by acne?
Scarring is best prevented by getting rid of the acne. Dermatologists can use various methods to improve the scarring caused by acne. The treatment must always be individualized for the specific patient. Chemical peels may be used in some patients, while dermabrasion or laser abrasion may benefit others. It is important that the acne be well controlled before any procedure is used to alleviate scarring.

10. How long before I see a visible result from using my acne medication?
The time for improvement depends upon the product being used, but in almost all cases it is more a matter of weeks or months instead of days. Most dermatologists would recommend the use of a medication or combination of medications daily for 4 to 8 weeks before they would change the treatment. It is very important for patients to be aware of this time frame so they do not become discouraged and discontinue their medications. Conversely, if you see no change whatsoever, you might want to check with your dermatologist regarding the need to change treatments.

11. Is acne that appears for the first time in adulthood different from acne that appears in adolescence?
 Acne has a specific definition as a disease of sebaceous follicles. This definition applies to acne that occurs at any age. However, it may be important to look for an underlying cause of acne that occurs for the first time in adulthood.

Current understanding of the causes of acne vulgaris is described in the Main Text section Why and how acne happens. In brief summary, acne vulgaris develops when excessive sebum production and abnormal growth and death of cells in the sebaceous follicle result in plugging of follicles with a mixture of sebum and cellular debris and formation of comedones (blackheads and whiteheads). Bacteria in the follicles-chiefly Propionibacterium acnes, the most common bacterial colonist of sebaceous follicles-may contribute to the inflammation of acne by release of metabolic products that cause inflammatory reaction. The pathogenic events, which cause disease, in the sebaceous follicle are believed to be due in large degree to changes in levels of androgenic (male) hormones in the body-a circumstance usually associated with growth and development between ages 12 and

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