Hormonal Treatment for Acne
Hormonal treatments for acne work by preventing androgens from stimulating oil production in the sebaceous glands that can clog pores and produce acne. The word androgen is used to describe chemicals such as dihydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and testosterone to name a few. The oil, called sebum, is produced by the sebaceous glands, and they are stimulated by the adrenal gland and the ovaries. Oil then clogs the pores, allowing for bacteria to be trapped, causing inflammation of the surrounding follicle resulting in acne.
Hormonal treatments for acne are combinations of hormones such as ethinyl estradiol/ drospirenone (Yasmin/YAZ), ethinyl estradiol/ cyproterone (Diane-35), ethinyl estradiol/ norgestimate (Ortho-Tri-Cyclen), and ethinyl estradiol/ levonorgestgrel (Alesse). These hormones bind to androgens and make them unable to stimulate the sebaceous glands into producing oil in the skin. The hormonal combinations are usually found in medications under the umbrella term of "the birth control pill." Not all types of birth control contain the same type of hormone combination, which makes some combinations better for the treatment of acne than others. Discuss hormonal treatments with your dermatologist and gynecologist.
The side effects of hormonal treatments for acne can range from mild to severe, and temporary to fatal in the most serious of cases. Common side effects are nausea, weight gain, vomiting, spotting, breast tenderness, which usually subside in three months of use. Serious side effects can be high blood pressure which usually goes down when medication is stopped, blood clots which increase in possibility with increase in age and whether or not the individual taking the medication is a smoker.
Other hormonal treatments for acne are medications that are designed to treat other conditions. Although not cleared by the FDA for acne use, spironolactone is a high blood pressure medication that acts like an anti-androgen, preventing them from stimulating oil production in the skin through hormonal means. Drug information also states that such medication is only for use in women when used as a hormonal treatment for acne, according to an article by J. Tan in a 2004 issue of "Journal of Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery."
Hormonal treatments for acne have benefits for the user other than the treatment and prevention of acne. Hormonal levels are regulated and can translate into a decrease or elimination of symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). Mood fluctuations are also tempered with the introduction of hormonal acne treatments, which at clinical levels can be considered a symptom of PMS or PMDD. Benefits of hormonal treatments such as weight gain can also be considered negative. However in underweight individuals this could be considered a benefit. More specific side effects can be found in the information packets of the birth control pills themselves, although the doctor prescribing them should provide accurate and detailed information as well.
Individuals seeking hormonal treatments for acne must consider whether or not the acne is hormonally activated. Some acne may be a reaction to makeup that has high oil content, or using a lotion that is not noncomedogenic. A dermatologist may be the best person to consult as to the origin of acne in the individual. Consideration must also be given to the type of hormonal treatment being used to treat the acne. There are multiple levels of hormones branded as "high" or "low," each with their own levels of side effects. A gynecologist is the best person to consult for best results.
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