Acne is a common condition that causes blocked pores, pimples, cysts and other lesions on the skin of the face, neck, chest, back, shoulders and upper arms. Acne affects over 17 million people in the US, making it the most common skin disease in the country. While mostly teenagers are affected, adults of any age can suffer from acne. Acne is not life-threatening, but can lead to physical disfigurement and emotional distress. There are several effective treatment methods available to help improve the appearance of the skin and prevent future breakouts from occurring.
Symptoms of Acne
Patients with acne may experience:
- Other forms of inflammation on the skin
Symptoms most commonly appear on the face, neck, shoulders, back or chest, although they can appear anywhere on the skin. These 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, greasy cosmetic or hair products, high levels of humidity or certain medications.
While acne does not usually lead to any serious health conditions, it can cause permanent scarring and damaging emotional effects for patients of any age. Patients should seek dermatologic treatment for acne if symptoms do not respond to over-the-counter treatment methods or scarring develops as the acne clears.
Treatment of Acne
Treatment for acne aims to reduce oil production and increase the speed of skin cell turnover to prevent new blemishes from developing, and to also reduce inflammation to help treat current symptoms. This can be done through a combination of topical treatment, antibiotics, isotretinoin or oral contraceptives. These treatment methods can take up to eight weeks before results are visible, and acne may get worse before getting better.
Topical ointments applied to the affected area are often the first form of treatment used for acne, and may contain benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid or lactic acid as an active ingredient to treat mild acne. Moderate cases can often be treated through prescription oral antibiotics used to reduce bacteria and inflammation, which are often combined with topical treatments. Isotretinoin (Accutane) may be prescribed for severe cases of acne that do not respond to other treatment methods.
Certain procedures may be recommended by your doctor to treat scarring caused by acne. These procedures may include skin fillers, dermabrasion, microdermabrasion, laser treatment and others. Many patients experience effective results from several treatment sessions and can enjoy smooth, clear skin after acne.
Acne is a common condition that causes blocked pores, pimples, cysts and other lesions on the skin. While it is most common in teenagers, acne can affect people of all ages, most often appearing on the face, neck, chest, back, shoulders and upper arms.
For many patients, once these lesions are removed, they leave behind discolorations and indentations on the skin and prevent patients from achieving the clear skin they desire. Although not harmful, most people are bothered by the unattractive appearance of these scars and seek treatment to remove or significantly reduce their appearance.
Acne scarring is most often caused by larger acne lesions, such as cysts or nodules, which can swell and rupture, causing a break in the wall of the individual pore. Infected material from the inflamed lesion can spill out through this break and can affect the nearby healthy tissue, leading to the appearance of a scar.
Types of Acne Scars
Acne scars can vary in appearance and texture depending on the type and severity of the original acne lesions. In most cases, acne leads to depressed scars, known as atrophic, that develop from a loss of tissue. The most common types of acne scarring include:
- Icepick scars, which are narrow indentations that form deep within the dermis and subcutaneous layers of the skin, creating an appearance that the skin has been punctured with an icepick.
- Boxcar scars, round depressions in the skin similar to chickenpox scars, which may be superficial or deeper, depending on the severity of the pimple.
- Rolling scars, which create a wave-like appearance to the skin as a result of bands of tissue that develop deep within the skin and pull the epidermis down in certain spots.
Each type of acne scar may require a different type of treatment in order to repair the damaged areas of the skin and produce a smooth, clear appearance that patients will be proud to show off.
Treatment of Acne Scars
Treatment for acne scars depends on the type and severity of scarring, as well as each patient's individual skin and amount of correction desired. Your doctor will develop a personalized treatment plan for you, which may include:
- Tissue fillers to "fill in" depressed scars for a smoother appearance
- Dermabrasion to remove the surface layer of the skin, which can completely remove surface scars or lessen the appearance of deeper scars
- Laser treatments (Fraxel) to burn away the surface layer of the skin and promote new skin cell production
- Surgery (punch excision) to remove indented scars by cutting them out of the skin, which may include the use of a skin graft
For many patients, a combination of treatments may be most effective in improving the appearance of acne scars. Treating acne scars is often a complex process that involves trial and error of treatments