Acne is one of the most common skin conditions in the United States, affecting as many as 60 – 70% of Americans at some point in life. Whether you call them pimples, zits or blemishes, acne breakouts can range from a minor nuisance to a scarring skin disease. In fact, even relatively mild acne may impact social relationships and self esteem. The most common sites for acne breakouts are the face, chest, and back, due to the higher concentration of oil glands in these locations.
Many factors influence the development of acne, with genetics being the most important.. Other contributing factors may include hormones, excess sebum (oil) production, certain medications, and a bacterium called P.acnes, which is often present in acne lesions and promotes inflammation.
While many acne sufferers are teenagers, the disease is not limited to adolescence. A significant number of adult men and women continue to battle acne well beyond their teen years. In fact, some experience acne breakouts for the first time in adulthood. Many adult women have acne associated with their menstrual cycles.
Acne lesions are generally categorized as non-inflammatory and inflammatory. Non-inflammatory lesions are essentially blocked pores, also known as closed comedones (whiteheads) and open comedones (blackheads). Inflammatory lesions include papules, pustules, nodules, and cysts. These are often red, swollen, and may be sore to the touch.
Topical acne treatments are designed to reduce inflammation, reduce oiliness, and speed up turnover of dead skin cells, thereby opening or unblocking pores. Systemic treatments include antibiotics designed to reduce inflammation in the skin, hormonal treatments, and occasionally isotretinoin, an oral vitamin A derivative generally reserved for severe cases or for stubborn acne that has been unresponsive to other treatments.
A variety of cosmetic procedures is also aimed at treating acne and reducing acne scars. These include laser and light treatments, chemical peels, and microdermabrasion.