Acne Vulgaris, also known as Seborrhea is an inflammatory disease of the skin, caused by changes in the pilosebaceous units (skin structures
consisting of a hair follicle and its associated sebaceous gland). Acne lesions are commonly referred to as pimples, spots, or zits.
Acne develops due to an impairment in the functioning of skin glands (dermis and epidermis), most notably resulting in blocked hair follicles and
obstructed sebaceous glands which become infected and colonized by bacteria. Under normal conditions the sebaceous glands release oil that comes
up through your pores onto the skin surface. This sebum oil (as it is known) keeps your skin moist and lubricated for protection from the environment.
But if the oil-generating glands become blocked or plugged the oil that they exude becomes trapped within the gland itself. The oil is toxic to the
nearby cells (remember that the surface of your skin is formed from dead cells and the oil cannot harm them). This results in damage to the cells.
White blood cells swarm to the site of the damage in an attempt at clearing the injured cells. But they die in numbers at the site of the damage. This
death of white cells results in a growth or pimple that starts to increase in size as more toxic oil tries to reach the surface of your skin.
Acne is caused when hair follicles or the oil-producing (sebaceous) glands in your skin become contaminated with toxic matter which can contain dirt,
dead skin, excess sebum oil, acid waste, bacteria and toxic matter. This occurs when the sebaceous glands become plugged with keratin and sebum
during a process known as hyperkeratinizaton (the technical term for the excess production of keratin).
Most typically acne occurs in teenagers during the maturation of the skin following puberty. Puberty also produces an increase in androgen (sex
hormone) production and this increases the skin's production of sebum. This increased sebum production becomes prone to infection, leading to a
build-up of bacteria which are attacked by the immune system. A surface infection results in a zit whilst deeper infections create pustules.
Many sufferers attempt to alleviate this discomfort by scratching or crushing the acne with their fingers. This results in the damage of underlying layers
of skin which destroys the integrity of the dermis and creates a weak zone to be attacked by bacteria. This results in an immune response resulting in
more acne draining into the surrounding sebaceous glands. Bruising of the surrounding tissue can also result in scar formation and the deformation of
the fine structures of the dermis so that its function is impaired which can create long-term havens for bacteria, exacerbating the problem. This can
result in some sebaceous glands growing without any kind of channel through to the surface of the skin.
Acne occurs most commonly in adolescence, affecting more than 85% of adolescents, but it can continue into adulthood though it tends to diminish
over time and becomes less of a problem from the mid 20s onwards. There is, however, no way to predict how long it will take for it to disappear
entirely, and some individuals will continue to suffer from acne decades later, into their thirties and forties and even beyond.
The name acne itself is derived from the Greek, άκμή (literally 'skin eruption').
Prevention of Acne is difficult, but as the diesease is caused by hormonal changes, stress and dietary factors healthy lifestyle, low toxin low sugar
natural diets, proper levels of exercise, situational organisation and improvements in stress levels, decent hygiene, gentle skincare may aid in reducing
In terms of medical or chemical treatments, generally speaking at least, most successful treatments give little improvement within the first week or two;
and then the acne decreases over approximately 3 months, after which the improvement starts to flatten out. Treatments that promise improvements
within 2 weeks are likely to be largely disappointing. Short bursts of cortisone, quick bursts of antibiotics and many of the laser therapies offer a quick
reduction in the redness, swelling and inflammation when used correctly, but none of these empty the pore of all the materials that trigger the
Treatments that have proven succesful include:
: This is the destruction of the top layer of skin cells at the microscopic level and can be done using an abrasive cloth or a liquid scrub, or
chemically with compounds such as salicylic acid and glycolic acid.
: this generally involves the applicaton of creams containing benzoyl peroxide. Typically a gel or cream containing benzoyl
peroxide is rubbed, twice daily, into the pores over the affected region. Bar soaps or washes may also be used and vary from 2 to 10% in strength.
Benzoyl peroxide acts to dissolve the keratin plugging the pores as well as killing the bacterium, Propionibacterium acnes, the main cause of acne.
: here antibiotics — typically erythromycin, clindamycin, Stiemycin or tetracycline are applied to the skin in creams.
: antibiotics such as erythromycin or one of the tetracycline antibiotics (tetracycline, the better absorbed oxytetracycline, or one of the
once daily doxycycline, minocycline or lymecycline) have been used to destroy the P acnes bacteria but they do not treat the underlying causes of the
problem and are becoming less useful as antibiotic resistant forms of the bacterium evolve.
: in women, at least, acne can be improved with hormonal treatments. The common combined oestrogen/progestogen methods
of hormonal contraception have some effect, but the anti-testosterone, Cyproterone, in combination with an oestrogen (Diane 35) is particularly
effective at reducing androgenic hormone levels.
: Topically-applied retinoids such as tretinoin (brand name Retin-A), adapalene (brand name Differin) and tazarotene (brand name
Tazorac), which are related to vitamin A, influence the cell creation and death lifecycle of cells in the follicle lining and thus they normalize the follicle
life cycle by prevent the hyperkeratinization of these cells that can create a blockage.
Jason Roberts is a former medical researcher with an interest in various medical conditions and how to treat them. If you want to learn more abut
acne, why not look at the . Or you can learn more about
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