Acne in Women
Teenagers are more likely to get acne than any other age group, but the American Academy of Dermatology states that acne isn't strictly an adolescent complaint. In a July 2009 report, the AAD noted that more than half of women between the ages of 20 and 29 are affected by acne. Acne in women is more likely to persist past the teen years due to hormonal fluctuations that continue for a large part of a woman's life.
Acne and Women
The majority of girls will get acne at some point in their lives; the AAD indicates that almost 100 percent of those between 12 and 17 will experience some type of acne lesion, be it the occasional whitehead, blackhead or pimple. But acne affects girls differently than boys. While boys are more likely to get a severe, lingering form of acne, young women more frequently get pimples at times that are linked to fluctuations in their hormones, such as before menstruation. Hormonal changes and fluctuations don't stop once a girl exits puberty; acne can be caused not only by menstruation, but by other life events, such as pregnancy and menopause.
A 2007 survey completed by the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine studied the prevalence of persistent acne--acne that doesn't subside after the teen years--as well as adult-onset acne. According to "Science Daily," which cited the results of the study, researchers concluded that while adults of both sexes weren't entirely immune to acne, women were more susceptible. Almost 51 percent of women reported experiencing acne in their 20s, and around 35 percent indicated they had acne in their 30s. Twenty-six percent of women noted acne in their 40s. The prevalence of acne dropped considerably among women in their 50s, with only 15 percent reporting that they experienced acne.
Hormones known as androgens are a dominant factor that causes acne in women, as these spur excess sebum production in the skin. The AAD states that acne lesions are typically noted on the lower part of the face, such as the jawline and upper neck. Resistance to oral antibiotics and other acne medications may necessitate hormonal therapy in the form of oral contraceptives. Sometimes birth control pills are used in conjunction with androgen-inhibiting drugs. However, hormonal therapy isn't appropriate for all women with acne due to the side-effects of oral contraceptivesfor some women, such as those over the age of 35, those who smoke or women who have a history of hypertension or clotting disorders. The AAD points out that women who wish to take oral contraceptives to curb acne should be vetted carefully by a dermatologist.
There are a number of other treatments for hormonal acne. The AAD cites some of these as use of topical medications, such as retinoids and antimicrobials, as well as oral antibiotics. In cases of severe, cystic acne, an oral medication called isotretinoin may be recommended, if appropriate. The Mayo Clinic cautions that this medication, which is taken daily for 16 to 20 weeks, causes birth defects in developing fetuses. Therefore, it is given to women of child-bearing age only after stringent precautions are taken. Women must use two forms of birth control while taking isotretinoin, undergo routine pregnancy testing and enroll in the U.S. Food & Drug Administration's iPLEDGE program.
Acne in women may be a sign of a medical condition, especially if the acne is accompanied by excessive facial hair or thinning hair on the scalp, notes the AAD. Two common conditions, polycystic ovaries and adrenal hyperplasia, result in higher than normal androgen levels. Moreover, these conditions can cause irregular menstrual periods, obesity, diabetes and infertility. The AAD stresses the importance of seeking a medical consultation if other symptoms are present in addition to acne.
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