Acne

(Pimples; Blackheads; Whiteheads; Acne Vulgaris)

Definition

Acne occurs when the pores of the skin become clogged, inflamed, and sometimes infected. These clogged pores can result in blackheads, whiteheads, pustules, or cysts. Acne is common in teenagers, but can also occur in adults.

Causes

Acne starts in the skin's sebaceous glands. These glands secrete an oily substance called sebum. The sebum normally travels through a tiny hair follicle from the gland to the skin's surface. Sometimes the sebum becomes trapped and mixes with dead skin cells and bacteria. This causes clogged pores called comedones.
Pimple
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Blackheads are comedones that reach the skin's surface. Whiteheads are comedones that stay beneath the surface of the skin. Small red bumps, pimples, and cysts may also develop.The main causes of acne include:
  • Changes in levels of male hormones called androgens
  • Increased sebum production
  • Changes inside the hair follicle
  • Bacteria

Risk Factors

Acne is more common in people who are Caucasian. It is also common in people who are 12-24 years old.Factors that increase your chance of acne include:
  • Family history
  • Changes in hormone levels, such as during:
    • Puberty
    • Pregnancy
    • The time before a menstrual period
  • Stress
  • Certain medication such as androgens, lithium, and barbiturates
  • Certain cosmetic products
  • Irritation from chin straps and headbands

Symptoms

Acne symptoms vary from person to person and can range from mild to severe (based on how many and where they are present). They include:
  • Excess oil in the skin
  • Blackheads
  • Whiteheads
  • Papules—small, pink bumps that may be tender to the touch
  • Pimples—inflamed, pus-filled bumps that may be red at the base
  • Nodules—large, painful, solid lumps that are lodged deep within the skin
  • Cysts—deep, inflamed, pus-filled lumps that can cause pain and scarring

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