Acne on the Face and Skin
Acne affects 17 million people in the United States, according to KidsHealth from Nemours. This common skin condition affects the face, back, stomach and other areas of the body. Proper skin care helps prevent acne in some people, but others get acne even if they wash their faces regularly and use acne prevention products.
The skin has pores to allow air and moisture to permeate the outermost layer. When dirt and oil clog these pores, it allows bacteria to multiply. The bacterium, P. acnes, causes acne in the form of blackheads, pimples, whiteheads and other types of blemishes.
Acne comes in several forms. These forms include acne vulgaris, acne rosacea, acne conglobata and pyoderma faciale. Mild to moderate acne vulgaris includes papules, blackheads, whiteheads and pustules. Severe acne vulgaris involves nodules and cysts. Acne rosacea consists of a red rash that affects the cheeks, chin, forehead and nose. This redness can occur along with pimples and other skin blemishes. Acne conglobata causes large lesions to form. This results in skin damage and scarring of the back, face, buttocks, chest, thighs and upper arms. Pyoderma faciale usually affects women between the ages of 20 to 40. This condition involves painful sores, pustules and nodules confined to the skin of the face.
First-line treatment for acne involves the use of over the counter or prescription medications. OTC products contain salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, sulfur or alpha hydroxyl acids. The salicylic acid prevents pores from clogging and breaks down blackheads and whiteheads. Benzoyl peroxide kills the P. acnes bacteria, prevents the pores from clogging and removes excess oil from the skin. Sulfur prevents clogging of the pores by removing dead skin cells. Alpha hydroxyl acids reduce inflammation, stimulate the growth of new skin and remove dead skin cells.
Prescription drugs used to treat acne include birth control pills, antibiotics and retinoid drugs. Birth control pills treat acne caused by hormonal imbalances. These drugs suppress the glands that produce excess oil. Antibiotics used in acne treatment include minocycline, doxycycline and erythromycin. These drugs reduce inflammation and kill acne-causing bacteria. Retinoid drugs prevent the formation of blackheads and whiteheads. Retinoids used to treat acne include adapalene, tretinoin and tazarotene.
Severe acne may require the use of medical procedures to kill bacteria or repair skin damage. Intralesional injections involve the use of a thin needle to place medication directly in the affected area. The American Osteopathic College of Dermatology explains that dermatologists usually use a drug called triamcinalone for intralesional injections. Cryosurgery involves freezing the skin with liquid nitrogen. This causes a peeling of the skin, which reduces the effects of acne. Some dermatologists use a pointed blade to open up blackheads and pimples.
Good skin care can prevent acne or reduce its long-term effects on the skin. McKinley Health Center at the University of Illinois recommends washing the skin gently twice a day. People with acne should avoid scrubbing the skin, stay away from harsh skin care products and reduce stress. McKinley Health Center also recommends picking acne lesions, as this causes scarring and increases the amount of time needed for the lesion to heal.
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