Adult Acne Causes & Treatments
Most people consider acne a teenage issue, and with good reason: about 85 percent of teens suffer from it each year, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). But adults--especially adult women--also get acne in large numbers, states the AAD. Half of women between ages 20 and 29 have acne, and 25 percent of those in their 40s still get pimples. Acne often is hormonally driven, according to the AAD, and there are effective treatments that can curb the unsightly problem. Some patients may have underlying health problems that lead to acne, and in most cases these also are treatable.
Acne results when the skin produces too much sebum oil, according to the Mayo Clinic. This oil, made by the sebaceous glands below the skin's surface, then combines with dead skin cells, forming a thick paste that can irritate and block hair follicles at the skin's surface. Blocked hair follicles form whiteheads and blackheads, and the blockage allows bacteria to build up and reproduce in the follicle. This results in pimples and inflammation.
Hormones are a likely culprit in adult acne, says the Mayo Clinic. An excess of hormones called androgens, commonly known as male hormones, can drive the sebaceous glands to produce too much sebum, setting off the chain reaction that results in acne. Some adult women experience breakouts directly before or during their menstrual periods, during pregnancy or when starting or stopping birth control pills, as a result of hormone fluctuations.
Underlying health concerns, including thyroid problems, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and even type 2 diabetes can cause acne outbreaks in adults. In the case of PCOS, women typically have high levels of androgens, which results in acne along with facial hair growth, missed or abnormal menstrual periods and infertility. Also, acne sometimes is the first sign a person has become diabetic. Because diabetes lowers immunity and makes infections harder to clear, diabetics can suffer from stubborn pimples. Each of these conditions is treatable, and physicians urge patients who are suffering from an unusual acne breakouts to see their doctors for full checkups.
While fighting pimples in the adult years may seem unfair and endless, the AAD reports that dermatologists can find an effective treatment for nearly everyone. Physicians likely will start with a topical treatment such as an antimicrobial to fight bacteria in the skin or a retinoid, which clears pores and renews the skin. Oral antibiotics also can help get infection under control. Physicians also might try oral contraceptives, which can moderate and eliminate the hormonal fluctuations that contribute to acne in adult women.
Regardless of which treatment your dermatologist chooses, adult acne treatment will take some time, the Mayo Clinic warns. Effective treatment can take months or even years, especially in severe cases. A dermatologist may even recommend physical procedures, such as laser treatment or chemical peels, to get acne under control. If your acne is severe it's likely that you'll need a combination of two or more types of treatments, such as oral contraceptives plus laser treatment, to win the acne battle.
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