Not just easily classified as zits and pimples, acne lesions come in different textures, colors and shapes. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, acne lesions most commonly occur on the face but can also develop on the neck, chest, back, shoulders and upper arms. Lesions range from mild to severe, and early treatment can decrease the possibility of developing complications such as scarring.
According to the Mayo Clinic, contributing factors in the development of acne includes the skin overproducing an oily substance called sebum, irritation of hair follicles due to the irregular shedding of dead skin cells and the buildup of bacteria. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, acne is not caused by poor hygiene, stress, chocolate or greasy foods.
Common Acne Lesions
Common types of acne lesions include comedones, papules, pustules and macules. Comedones are referred to as whiteheads and blackheads. A blackhead, also called an open comedo, is a lesion that's open to the skin surface and has a blackish appearance. A whitehead, also referred to as a closed comedo, is a skin-colored bump.
A papule is a slightly elevated lesion measuring less than 5mm. You may not be able to notice a group of small papules, but the texture of the skin feels like sandpaper. A pustule is a dome-shaped, pus-filled lesion that has a red base. A macule is a temporary red to red or pink-colored flat spot that is left when an acne lesion heals.
Severe Acne Lesions
Severe and painful types of acne lesions that extend deep into the skin layers include nodules and cysts. A nodule is a solid, raised lesion. A cyst is a sac-like lesion filled with white blood cells, dead skin cells and bacteria in a liquid or semi-liquid form. These types of lesions commonly form together. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, there is debate among acne investigators involving whether cysts are true acne lesions or if they are misdiagnosed nodules that are severely inflamed.
Treatment is aimed at decreasing sebum production, treating infection and healing the lesions. The treatment method is based on the severity of the lesions. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, mild acne lesions that consist of comedones and pustules are generally treated with over-the-counter acne medications or with a prescription lotion or cream containing benzoyl peroxide, resorcinol, salicylic acid or sulfur.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, moderate to moderately severe acne lesions are additionally treated with oral contraceptives for women and topical medications such as antimicrobials and retinoids. Severe acne is treated more aggressively with corticosteroid injections, an oral acne medication called isotretinoin that's also known by the brand name Accutane, as well as drainage and surgical removal of the cysts performed by a physician under sterile conditions.
Remove dead skin cells and excess sebum by washing your face twice daily with a mild, non-drying soap and warm water. Gently pat your skin dry. Avoid applying oily lotions or cosmetics to your skin. Instead, opt for water-based, non-acnegenic or non-comedogenic products. Resist the temptation to pick, pop or squeeze the lesions, which can lead to an infection and scarring.
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