Pimples & Hair Follicles
Nobody enjoys getting those nasty little pimples that always seem to present themselves at the most inopportune times. But everyone is susceptible to them, some more than others. Tiny hair follicles covering our body are responsible for unsightly blackheads, whiteheads and pimples when plugged up by too much oil (sebum), dead skin cells and possibly bacteria. Ranging from mild to severe, acne not only appears on the face, but also the shoulders, back and chest, which, according to the Mayo Clinic, have the largest number of functioning oil glands.
Sebaceous glands, found In the middle layer of the skin (dermis), are attached to our hair follicles. These glands produce sebum to lubricate the hair and skin. Normally, dead skin cells and sebum travel up the hair shafts, through the hair follicle opening and onto the skin surface through our pores. However, excess oil secretions, dead skin cells and sometimes bacteria plug up the hair follicles, resulting in facial or body acne.
Types of Acne
We may call a zit a zit, but acne is further identified as whiteheads or blackheads (comedones), papules, pustules, nodules or cysts. Whiteheads develop when blocked follicle walls bulge against closed pores, while blackheads result from the blockage darkening with opened pores. Papules appear as small raised bumps, which are inflamed or infected hair follicles. Dermatologists classify white pus-tipped pimples as pustules. Acne developed deep within the follicle from sebum buildup underneath the skin are called nodules, or cysts if they're pus-filled, boil-like lumps.
Overproduction of sebum, irregular dead skin cell shedding (which irritates hair follicles) and bacteria buildup all cause acne. The cause for increased sebum production remains unknown, according to the Mayo Clinic. However, as indicated by Merck, hormone variations (especially the androgens) from puberty, menstruation and pregnancy; bacteria and certain drugs (such as corticosteroids and anabolic steroids) do play a role in causing sebum overproduction.
Acne skin conditions range from mild, to moderate or severe. Merck defines mild acne as 20 or fewer non-inflamed condones with a small amount of mildly irritated pimples. Moderate acne causes more comedones and pimples, possibly pustules. Those with severe (cystic or deep) acne exhibit numerous nodules that sometimes join together under the skin, causing oozing abscesses.
Treatment varies with the severity of the acne. For mild acne, topical antibacterial drugs work to kill bacteria or dry up or unclog pores. Clindamycin and erythromycinthe are most common antibiotics prescribed. If ineffective, trentinoin, a topical drug, may be prescribed. Trentinoin causes photosensitivity and skin irritation and must be applied with caution. Erythromycin, doxycycline, minocycline and tetracycline, all oral antibiotics, are prescribed for moderate acne cases. For those with severe acne, oral isotretinoin may be given; however, pregnant women or those looking to conceive cannot use this drug, as it can harm a developing fetus.
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