Acne is a very common condition that can occur shortly after birth, during adolescence, and as an adult. It commonly affects the face, chest, and back. The cause of acne is a result of many factors, some of which are hormonal and bacterial.
Acne begins secondary to plugging of the opening of a hair follicle. This plugging results in a build up of shed skin cells (keratinocytes) and oily secretions (sebum) behind the plug. The result in a non-inflammatory bump (papule) called a comedone. These bumps are often skin colored or black in color, not red. If this bump or comedone breaks open, the contents (shed skin cells and oily secretions) are forced into the skin. These contents are very irritating to the skin and result in formation of an inflammatory red pimple. Depending of the level of inflammation, larger cystic pimples can form. More inflammation can often leave marks or scars on the skin surface, some of which may be permanent.
The majority of patients with acne have both non-inflammatory (comedones) and inflammatory (red pimples, pus bumps, nodules) lesions, a condition known as acne vulgaris. Understanding of these different types of lesions is essential towards creating a satisfying treatment regimen. There are many different medications, both topical and oral, which are approved to treat acne. The diagnosis and treatment regimen are best made by a skin specialist or dermatologist. Mild cases of acne will often respond to a simple topical regimen while other more severe cases may require oral treatment and blood testing.
The importance of treating acne early cannot be over-emphasized. Some patients with acne may be left with permanent marks and scarring that may persist for months to years after acne ceases. Early consultation of a dermatologist may improve quality of life, both now and for years to come.