Acne is a familiar skin condition that affects most people at some point. Acne is not dangerous, but can leave skin scars. It causes spots, oily skin and at times skin that’s hot or painful to touch.
Acne most usually develops on the:
- face – this affects nearly everyone with acne
- back – this affects more than half of people with acne
- chest – this affects about 15% of people with acne
The types of acne pimples
- Whiteheads – remain under the skin and are very small
- Blackheads – clearly visible, they are black and appear on the surface of the skin.
- Papules – visible on the surface of the skin. They are small bumps, usually pink
- Pustules – clearly visible on the surface of the skin.
- Cysts – They are painful, and are filled with pus. Cysts can easily cause scars.
Acne is caused when tiny holes in the skin, known as hair follicles, become sterile. Sebaceous glands are tiny glands found near the facade of skin. The glands are attached to hair follicles, which are small holes in your skin that an individual hair grows out of. Sebaceous glands lubricate the hair and the skin to stop it drying out. They do this by producing an oily substance called sebum.
In acne, the glands begin to produce too much sebum. The excess sebum mixes with dead skin cells and both substances form a plug in the follicle.
Four grades can be used to measure the severity of acne:
- grade 1 (mild) – acne is regularly confined to whiteheads and blackheads, with just a few papules and pustules
- grade 2 (moderate) – there are multiple papules and pustules, which are mostly confined to the face
- grade 3 (moderately severe) – there’s a large number of papules and pustules, as well as the occasional inflamed nodule, and the back and chest are also affected by acne
- grade 4 (severe) – there’s a large number of large, painful pustules and nodules
Prescription medications that can be used to treat acne include:
- topical retinoids
- topical antibiotics
- azelaic acid
- antibiotic tablets
- in women, the combined oral contraceptive pill isotretinoin tablets
A combination of antibiotic tablets and topical treatments is typically the first healing option for stern acne. If this doesn’t work, a medication called isotretinoin may be prescribed.