Acne: Symptoms, Treatment and Causes

What Is Acne?

Acne is a common condition which causes spots to break out in the skin due to hair follicles becoming blocked with oil (sebum), or dead skin cells. Spots can be painful, or hot to the touch. Everyone can be affected by acne at some point in their lives, particularly during teenage years, but for some, acne can be severe and persistent. If you, or your teenager, are suffering with acne, please contact MyHealthcare Clinic for an appointment with our consultant dermatologist who can advise you on what treatment’s best for you.

Symptoms of acne

Signs of acne usually appear on areas of skin which have the most sebum that is produced in the sebaceous glands, particularly in the face, the upper back, chest, and shoulders. In varying forms of severity, acne includes the following:

·      Blackheads (open blocked pores)

·      Whiteheads (closed blocked pores)

·      Small red, tender bumps (papules)

·      Pimples (pustules), which are papules with pus at their tips

·      Large, solid, painful lumps under the skin (nodules)

·      Painful, pus-filled lumps under the skin (cystic lesions)

The main causes of acne are:

·      Excess sebum production

·      Hair follicles clogged by oil and dead skin cells

·      Bacteria

·      Inflammation

Acne is caused when hair follicles in the skin become blocked. Sebaceous glands are tiny glands found near the surface of your skin which lubricate the hair follicle and the skin to stop it drying out. The oily substance produced is called sebum.  An over-production of this sebum is what causes acne. The excess of sebum combined with dead skin cells plugs the hair follicle. If the plugged hair follicle is close to the surface of the skin, it bulges outwards, and creates a whitehead, or the hair follicle opens in the skin, creating a blackhead. Harmless bacteria that live on the skin can then infect the blocked follicles, causing papules, pustules, nodules, or cysts.

Teenage acne

Teenage acne is caused by an increase in the levels of the hormone, testosterone, during puberty. Sebaceous glands are particularly sensitive to hormones and it is thought that an increase in the level of testosterone can cause the glands to produce much more sebum than the skin needs.  Acne runs in the family – if your parents had acne, you are also likely to have acne.  For more information, please contact MyHealthcare Clinic to see one of our skin specialists.

Adult acne

Women are more likely to get acne during adulthood than men, particularly because of changes in hormones in the body, at certain times, such as:

·      Before periods – some women can get acne at the beginning of the menstrual cycle

·      During pregnancy – some women can get acne during their pregnancy, symptoms can usually begin to flare up, in the first 3 months

·      Polycystic ovary syndrome – a common condition that can cause acne, small cysts inside the ovary, and weight gain

Certain things can trigger, or exacerbate, acne, such as:

·      Hormonal changes during puberty when the sebaceous glands enlarge to make more sebum, or hormonal changes during midlife, particularly in women.

·      Some medications, for example, medications containing corticosteroids, testosterone, or lithium.

·      Wearing items such as backpacks on affected areas could exacerbate breakouts of acne.

·      Eating certain foods may worsen acne, particularly carbohydrate-rich foods, for example, bread.

·      Smoking can contribute to acne in adulthood.

·      Stress in itself does not cause acne, but for those who already have acne, a change in stress levels may make the acne worse.

If you have any of the aforementioned symptoms of acne, please do not hesitate to contact MyHealthcare Clinic for an appointment with our consultant dermatologist. Get the help your skin needs with a comprehensive consultation.