Acner.org: Acne treatment

Acner.org: Acne treatment

About Acne Pustules

About Acne Pustules About Acne Pustules About Acne Pustules

Overview

From minor red bumps to painful, embarrassing lesions, acne manifests in a variety of forms. Although this skin condition is often regarded as a hallmark of adolescence, the American Academy of Dermatology states that acne can affect men and women of all ages, blemishing the complexions of 40 to 50 million Americans. Pustules are a mild form of this skin condition with a variety of potential treatment options.

Description

Pustules are inflamed, raised lesions filled with a mixture of bacteria, dead skin cells and white blood cells. Although they commonly appear on the face, pustules can form over sebaceous follicles anywhere on the body, including the neck, back and shoulders. Pustules feature visible white caps or "heads" that release pus when squeezed or popped. Although these blemishes are less damaging than large lesions like nodules and cysts, pustules are considered more severe than comedones and papules, two other common forms of acne.

Causes

According to the Acne Resource Center, pustules form when sebaceous glands on the skin produce excess sebum--a type of natural moisturizing oil--which then hardens into a pore-clogging plug. When bacteria, dead skin cells and dirt infect the blocked pore, a pustule's characteristic inflammation and redness occurs. Although the exact cause of excess sebum production is unknown, possible factors include hormones, genetics, friction with clothing, greasy cosmetics and environmental exposure to pollution or humidity. In some cases, medications, such as cortisone, may increase the occurrence of pustules.

Effects

Unless pustules develop into more severe lesions like cysts, they rarely result in permanent scarring. Some individuals with widespread or highly visible pustules may experience emotional issues stemming from dissatisfaction with their appearance, including embarrassment, depression, anger, poor body image, frustration and a loss of self-esteem and self-confidence. Some acne sufferers may withdraw from friends and social situations as a result of these psychological obstacles.

Treatment

Acne pustules may respond to a variety of treatments, both topical and systemic. The American Academy of Dermatology explains that topical products--including ointments and creams containing benzoyl peroxide, retinoids, salicylic acid or antibiotics--are the standard treatment for mild acne such as pustules. In some cases, dermatologists prescribe the oral antibiotics doxyclycline, minocycline, trimethoprim, azithromycin or erythromycin to control the bacteria responsible for infecting sebaceous follicles. Women may experience improvement in pustule-ridden complexions by taking certain birth control pills.

Warning

Because pustules are relatively fragile lesions, they easily drain pus when squeezed. However, popping pustules can expose the infected area to oils and bacteria on your hands, which may increase inflammation and lead to more severe infection. Pustules that progress into more advanced forms of acne--particularly cysts--carry a risk of permanent scarring. Although most acne pustule treatments are safe for general use, pregnant women should take caution when choosing treatments, as some systemic medications--such as isotretinoin--can cause birth defects.

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