Acne develops when pores become clogged, from an overproduction of oil, a buildup of bacteria or a shedding of dead skin cells. This build up forms a soft plug that forces the follicle wall to bulge and protrude from the skin, causing a lesion. The cause of excess oil production is unknown, but is believed to involve a combination of several factors, including hormones, bacteria, heredity and, in some cases, the use of certain medications. Contrary to popular belief, chocolate, greasy foods and dirty skin do not cause acne.
Although they can appear anywhere, symptoms of acne usually appear on the face, neck, shoulders, back or chest. Symptoms of acne may include the following:
Symptoms can come and go, and may flare up at certain times as a result of hormonal or environmental triggers such as pregnancy, menstrual periods, high levels of humidity, using oily cosmetics or hair products, and taking certain medications. Severe cases of acne may cause scarring, which can have a damaging emotional effect on the sufferer. If acne symptoms do not respond to over-the-counter treatments, or if scarring develops as the acne clears up, a dermatologist should be consulted.
Treatment methods for acne aim to reduce oil production and increase the speed of skin-cell turnover to prevent new blemishes from developing. Acne treatment also focuses on reducing inflammation to help treat current symptoms. Treatment may include a combination of topical creams and ointments, and prescription medications that include antibiotics and oral contraceptives.
Topical Treatments: The dermatologist will usually advise the use of Topical creams and ointments applied to the affected area as a first step in treatment. Over-the-counter creams and ointments, which are used to treat mild forms of acne, may contain benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid or lactic acid as their active ingredient. Prescription topical treatments may contain higher concentrations of these active ingredients, as well as retinoic or azelaic acid.
Oral Prescription Medications: Moderate cases of acne can often be treated with prescription oral antibiotics, which reduce bacteria and inflammation. They are often combined with topical treatments. Isotretinoin may be prescribed for severe cases of acne that do not respond to other treatment methods. In some cases, oral contraceptives are prescribed for women to treat moderate cases of acne.
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"My daughter has very dry skin and every time she came home from swimming class, her skin would have dry patches and red dots. Dr Dave took care of it."