Acne is one of the most common of all skin problems. It is estimated that at least 60 million people in the US suffer from acne. It affects most teenagers and even many adults.
What is acne?
Acne usually begins around puberty when members of both sexes experience an increase in the production of hormones. These hormones regulate the activity and size of the oil-producing, or sebaceous, glands that reside in the pores, or hair follicles of the skin.
The increased production of these hormones causes the oil glands to get bigger in the areas where acne occurs. An oily substance called sebum travels from the sebaceous gland through the hair follicles to the surface of the skin. At the same time, the lining of the wall of the hair follicle sheds skin cells that then stick together with the sebum. The follicle gets clogged, plugging up the opening in the surface of the skin — and whiteheads, blackheads and pimples develop.
As it progresses, acne can become those red, painful bumps that have sent many teens and adults into hiding. Fortunately, effective treatment is available!
What causes acne to get worse?
Your body sends in certain specialized cells that invade the follicle to help clean it up. However, in the process, the wall of the follicle may weaken and rupture, emptying the contents of the follicle into the surrounding tissue. When this occurs, swelling or redness can develop around the affected follicle, resulting in the larger bumps or pimples characteristic of moderate to severe acne. These are known as papules and pustules and can sometimes cause scarring.
From the beginning until its disappearance, the lifecycle of a pimple can take eight weeks. And it can take even longer for the darkened spots left by some acne pimples to fade completely.
Is your acne mild or severe?
Almost everyone experiences some pimples, especially during adolescence. Mild acne can sometimes be treated successfully with over-the-counter creams and cleansers — but not always. Acne is considered mild if only the face is affected, the blemishes are mostly whiteheads and blackheads, and papules or pustules are uncommon. (Papules are large, red, painful blemishes that do not contain pus; pustules are similar to papules but contain pus.)
When several papules and pustules are present, there is the greater risk for scarring. Acne this severe should definitely be seen by a doctor or dermatologist. If you are experiencing numerous breakouts or have acne on the chest and/or back, don't wait — consult a doctor or dermatologist. It's important to get to the root of the problem with the treatment that’s right for you. Speak to your doctor about appropriate treatment.