Acne is an extremely common disease of the hair follicles characterized by pimples, pustules, whiteheads, blackheads, cysts, and, sometimes, scars. It affects about 80% of teenagers and many young adults too.
Acne is caused by four factors: stickiness of the skin cells, overproduction of oil (sebum), proliferation of bacteria, and inflammation. Patients with acne have sticky skin cells that clump together and plug their hair follicles. This is what causes whiteheads and blackheads. Blackheads are dark because the contents of the sticky clump become dark on exposure to air.
Oil accumulates behind the sticky clump and facilitates the overgrowth of bacteria in the area. Everyone has some bacteria on their skin, but patients with acne have a bit more. The effect of the bacteria on the oil ultimately leads to inflammation. In the best case scenario, a small pimple occurs which resolves without leaving any residual. In some patients, however, a cyst may develop or a dark stain or scar may be left behind after the pimple or cyst resolves.
Treatment of acne consists of topical washes and creams, prescription antibiotics, oral hormone medicines, Accutane, and lasers. The goal of treatment is to provide significant improvement while keeping safety in mind. Many treatments can be used in combination such as topical creams, oral antibiotics, and laser treatments.
Laser treatments are a relatively new type of therapy that are the only other treatment besides Accutane that can put acne into remission for an extended period of time. Unlike Accutane, though, they don't have as many serious risks.
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