Acne, also called Acne Vulgaris, is a common skin condition characterized by pimples that form on the face, neck, chest, and back. This happens when the pores become clogged with oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria.
Mild forms of acne are called blackheads, whiteheads and pimples. Severe acne may mean that you have hundreds of blemishes that cover the face, neck, chest and back and can present as bigger, solid, red bumps, filled with pus and can be painful, as in the case of nodules and cysts.
Acne affects about 85% of adolescents and young adults and approximately 70% of all acne is caused from heredity or genetic factors. Acne appears to be more common in males because of hormones like testosterone that stimulate the production of keratin (protein found in skin) and sebum (oil), which leads to clogged pores.
Causes of Acne:
The exact triggers that cause acne are not clear since some struggle with the condition while others never experience the pain and embarrassment of acne. However, several risk factors have been identified:
- Age – teenagers are more likely to develop acne as a result of hormonal changes they experience.
- Gender – boys often develop more severe acne and are afflicted more often than girls.
- Disease – hormonal disorders can complicate acne in girls.
- Heredity – individuals with a family history of acne have greater susceptibility to the disease.
- Hormonal changes – acne can flare up before menstruation, during pregnancy and menopause.
- Stress – anxiety and emotional stress can cause breakouts.
- Diet – no foods actually cause acne, but certain foods may cause flare-ups such as the consumption of junk food, refined sugars, saturated fats, and hydrogenated fats. Conversely, there is compelling evidence that healthy foods can help prevent acne.
- Cosmetics – comedogenic and oil-based make-up, as well as products like hair spray will add to the problem.
- Drugs – certain drugs like antidepressants, antibiotics, oral contraceptives, and anabolic steroids can promote acne.
- Personal hygiene – use of abrasive soaps, aggressive washing, or picking at pimples will make the condition worse.
- Environment – air pollution, smoke, grease, oils, and sweating can aggravate acne.
- Bacteria – acne is not caused by bacteria, although acne bacteria, (Propionibacterium acne) do play a role in its development.
DID YOU KNOW…
Spraying perfume on the sides of your neck will stimulate your oil glands, producing 25% more oil on the skin’s surface.
How Acne Forms:
All acne begins as a blockage of the hair follicle, or pore. Problems arise when the sebum (oil) is trapped in the hair follicle. When this happens, sebum (oil) which normally drains to the surface gets trapped and bacteria begin to grow. This causes some follicles to form non-inflammatory acne called comedones. This is a plug of sebaceous (oily) and dead skin matter stuck in the opening of a hair follicle. The follicle may be open, resulting in a blackhead, or almost closed, resulting in a whitehead, also referred to as Milia.
If a blackhead or whitehead releases its contents to the surface, the skin heals and the cycle stops there. Sometimes the follicle wall ruptures, leading to inflammatory acne. This can be caused by random occurrence or by picking or touching the skin. White blood cells rush in to the ruptured follicle and the pore becomes inflamed –forming a papule often considered the first phase of severe acne. Days later, white blood cells make their way to the surface of the skin, forming a pustule (0r pimple).
If an inflamed lesion (papule or pustule) completely collapses or explodes, severely affecting the surrounding skin and engulfing neighboring follicles, these lesions then become nodules or cysts, the most severe type of acne.
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