Acne is the most common skin disorder in the United States affecting nearly 85% of all people at some point in their lives. Acne can occur any time in life but often begins in puberty with the development of comedones (blackheads and whiteheads), pimples, and deeper lumps (cysts or nodules) that occur on the face, neck, chest, back, shoulders and even the upper arms. In addition to these symptoms, there are often significant physical and psychological side effects associated with acne, such as permanent scarring, poor self-image, depression and anxiety.
The exact cause of acne is unknown, but there seem to be 3 main factors that can cause acne: blocked pores, oil and bacteria. In predisposed people, the skin cells lining the pores stick together and form a plug on the skin surface, known as white head or a black head. Then overactive sebaceous oil glands produce too much oil which causes proliferation of the bacterium Propionibacterium acnes (present on everyone’s skin) within the blocked pore. This bacterial overgrowth leads to inflammation that is seen as red or yellow bumps and cysts. Certain factors can trigger or worsen acne, including genetic predisposition, diet, menstration, hormones and stress.
Acne treatments include topical over the counter and prescription products, oral prescriptions, chemical peels and laser and light treatments. Seek professional dermatological treatment early as it may avoid or minimize unwanted complications such as scarring.