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Causes of Acne & Treatment Risk Factors

Causes of Acne & Treatment Risk Factors Causes of Acne & Treatment Risk Factors Causes of Acne & Treatment Risk Factors

Some 85 percent of teenagers get acne at some time during their teen years, according to the UC Davis Health System; acne may even persist into adulthood. Acne can appear in a variety of forms, from pimples and blackheads to pustules and even painful cysts. There are many treatments for acne from which to choose, but some carry risks.


The National Institutes of Health (NIH) describes acne as a common skin disease that occurs when when hair follicles under the skin get clogged; however, no one knows exactly what causes acne. Hormone changes are believed to play a role, which is why acne is so prevalent among teens, and to a lesser degree, pregnant women.The Mayo Clinic notes that bacteria, certain medications and heredity also play a role in the development of acne. Dirt, greasy foods and chocolate don't cause acne, but scrubbing skin too hard can actually make acne worse. According to the Mayo Clinic, studies are under way to try to determine whether high-starch foods that increase blood sugar may play a role in acne.

Topical Treatments

If you develop acne, there are plenty of choices for treatment. Most people begin by using some type of topical treatment. They're available over-the-counter (OTC) and by prescription. Some work by promoting cell turnover and helping to prevent hair follicles from getting plugged. The Mayo Clinic reports that many OTC treatments contain ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide, sulfur, resorcinol, salicylic acid or lactic acid. However, when you first start using these products, they can produce side effects such as skin irritation, dryness and flaking. Other topical treatments contain antibiotics designed to fight bacteria on the skin. Some products combine ingredients to use both approaches to fight acne. You might experience side effects such as stinging, burning, redness or peeling.

Oral Medications

Doctors sometimes prescribe oral antibiotics to use alone or in combination with topical creams. Oral antibiotics bring a different set of risks. The Mayo Clinic reports these medicines may cause side effects such as dizziness, upset stomach or skin discoloration. They can increase your skin's sensitivity to the sun, and they may reduce the effectiveness of birth control pills. Oral contraceptives also are sometimes used to improve acne in women; however, they may increase your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and blood clots.

Other Therapies

Laser and light therapies are sometimes used to treat acne. However, such treatments may cause temporary skin problems that act like a severe sunburn. Chemical peels and microdermabrasion also are used to treat acne. They can cause temporary redness or long-term discoloration of the skin. Other possible side effects include scaling and blistering.

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