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Acne & Related Disorders


There are several acne-like disorders, including acne vulgaris, rosacea, hormonally-influenced acne and nodular or cystic acne, which are considered separate entities because of differences in development and treatment. Knowing about some of the forms of acne and related disorders can help you understand the underlying causes and what treatment options are available, and keep you from falling for some of the more common acne myths.

Acne Vulgaris

Acne vulgaris, or "common" acne, is caused when the skin's oil glands produce too much sebum, which is a fatty lubricant, leading to blocked pores. This causes outbreaks of lesions, or pimples, which occur on the face, neck, back, shoulders and chest. Some common contributing factors are changes in hormone levels, family history, environmental irritants and oily makeup. Treatment can include over-the-counter topical solutions, prescription drugs, injections, skin peeling and acne surgery. Treatment would be determined by your individual condition.


Rosacea is a skin disorder causing redness on the face, bumps or pimples, and small visible blood vessels. The exact cause of rosacea is unknown, but there are theories regarding possible triggers. Blood vessels in the face may dilate too easily, increasing blood flow, which would make the skin appear red. Skin bacteria, microscopic skin mites, sun damage or other factors could also cause acne-like bumps to appear. According to the National Rosacea Society, treatments can include oral antibiotics and topical therapy. Laser treatment may also be used to remove visible blood vessels.

Hormonally-Influenced Acne

Some women experience hormonally-influenced acne, which is caused by an excess of androgens, also known as male hormones. This may be evident by excessive growth of hair on the face or body, premenstrual acne flares, irregular menstrual cycles or elevated blood levels of certain androgens. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, one of several drugs may be prescribed to treat this type of acne, including birth control pills, low-dose corticosteroid drugs or anti-androgen drugs such as spironolactrone, to reduce excessive oil production.

Nodular or Cystic Acne

People who have nodules or cysts have a more severe form of acne, which should be treated by a dermatologist. Your doctor may prescribe isotretinoin, a vitamin A derivative. Isotretinoin is an oral drug that is usually taken once or twice a day for 15 to 20 weeks. It reduces the size of the oil glands so that much less oil is produced, resulting in a decreased growth of bacteria.

Myths About Acne

It is a myth that poor hygiene causes acne. In fact, too much washing or harsh scrubbing can actually make acne worse. Because acne forms under the skin, washing away surface oils doesn't help to prevent or cure the condition. Eating chocolate or greasy foods does not cause acne. Experts have not found a link between the diet and acne. It has never been proven that stress causes acne, although in some cases it can be a contributing factor.

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