Pus, Blackheads & Acne
Acne is a common skin problem that affects about 17 million Americans, according to the Nemours hospital network. It is a bane of teenagers, but many adults get it too. Most people refer to just about any type of acne lesion as a pimple, but there are actually several distinct types.
Acne is a skin condition characterized by a variety of different lesions. These include blackheads, whiteheads, pustules, papules, nodules and cysts, according to the Mayo Clinic. All of them have the same root cause. They are triggered by oil and dead skin cells blocking hair follicles. However, they manifest themselves in different ways. Some are merely swollen, while others are filled with pus.
The Mayo Clinic explains that blackheads and whiteheads are very similar. Both are a type of lesion known as a comedone. A blackhead occurs when the hair follicle is stopped up with skin cells and oils but is still open at the skin's surface. It gets its name because the material plugging the follicle looks dark. A whitehead happens when the follicle is completely clogged. It looks like a little skin-colored swelling. Pustules and cysts both contain pus. Pustles are small red swellings with a white, pus-filled tip. Cysts are larger, pus-filled lumps. They are often painful and may cause scarring in severe cases.
Blackheads, pus-filled pimples and other acne lesions can usually be treated with creams, lotions and medicated pads purchased at a drugstore. Nemours recommends medications with benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid.They help dry and peel the skin and kill bacteria that contribute to the problem.
Acne is difficult to prevent, especially in adolescence when hormones trigger more skin oil production. The Nemours hospital network states that 80 percent of teenagers get acne outbreaks, including blackheads and other pimple types. Outbreaks can sometimes be controlled by washing the face with a very mild cleanser. The Mayo Clinic recommends limiting this to twice a day, because frequent or vigorous washing can inflame acne.
Never pick or pop any kind of pimple or attempt to squeeze the pus out of a pustule or cyst. This can increase inflammation and cause an infection. It may also lead to permanent scarring, the Mayo Clinic warns. Apply a medicated cream rather than touching pimples. See your family doctor or a dermatologist if the acne is itchy or painful and does not respond to over-the-counter treatments.
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