Acne Causes & Cures
Acne plagues people of all ages, causing social embarrassment, annoyance and pain. When severe, acne can even leave unsightly scars on the skin. The red bumps, pimples and deep cysts that form can range in severity from the occasional zit to a serious case of acne that covers a large area. Acne is most common on the face, but can occur anywhere on the body, including the back, chest, shoulders or other places.
The biological causes of acne include three things. First is an overproduction of oil from the glands in the skin, a substance called sebum. Second is an irritation of the hair follicles caused by shedding of dead skin cells. Last is the introduction and growth of bacteria that feed on the dead skin cells and oil.
There are a few different types of acne. Whiteheads occur when the oil and dead skin cells plug up the hair follicle pore. If infected by bacteria, this becomes a red, raised pimple with the white area in the center. Blackheads occur when the clogged pore is open to the air so that the surface darkens. If the blockage of the hair shaft pore is very deep, this is called cystic acne.
There are many myths about what affects acne. Chocolate is often blamed, but in truth does not affect or cause acne at all. Other dietary things that might affect acne are under study, but there is no evidence yet for any specific food leading to breakouts. Hormonal changes, on the other hand, do affect acne. Puberty and pregnancy are two times when hormones can cause acne to increase. Emotional stress also increases the incidence of acne.
Prescription medications are available through a dermatologist. These include topical creams or lotions that are benzoyl peroxide based and retinols.
Oral prescription medications are also available, including antibiotics and isotretinoin, a drug with powerful side effects that is reserved for extremely severe cases of acne.
Treatments for acne that do not involve medication are also available. Light therapy is one available treatment that does not involve topical or ingested drugs. This treatment involves shining a specific wavelength of light on the affected area for about 15 minutes per day. The light kills the bacteria that infect the skin and cause the acne. Professional light therapy is available through doctors and salons, and home kits are also available. Laser therapy, performed in a doctor's office, is another method of destroying the bacteria that lead to acne.
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