Acne is a skin condition which affects many people, occuring when hair follicles and pores are clogged by dead skin cells and oil. Acne can occur anywhere on the body, but most commonly manifests on the face, back and chest.
The condition causes oily skin, painful/red areas, and spots, including blackheads, whiteheads, pustules and cysts. Depending on the person, acne can trigger anything from the occasional spot or two to large numbers of breakouts which can begin to affect the person’s self esteem. It’s thought that a major cause of acne is genetics. It mostly affects teenagers, and acne sufferers will often find their symptoms easing during their early twenties.
“Acne is a common skin condition primarily affecting the face which can be controlled with topical treatments such as gels, creams and lotions. It’s important to get a proper diagnosis of the condition before starting treatment to find out if there are any underlying conditions which are causing your acne such as polycystic ovary syndrome. Retinoids and antibiotics are prescribed to treat moderate to severe cases of acne, however, antibiotics shouldn’t be used for longer than 6 months to avoid resistance to the drug.”
What is acne?
Acne is an inflammatory skin condition that affects many people at some point in their lives. For some the condition can be mild and for others it can be chronic. Acne causes spots and pimples to appear most commonly on the face, back and chest but they can manifest on any part of the body. Acne is usually associated with the face as almost everyone who has the condition has it on this area of the body. The spots are often red, sore and feel hot and tender to touch causing severe discomfort and embarrassment for the sufferer. There are different types of spots caused by acne which include:
Some types of spots can be more severe than others and can result in scarring, for instance, cysts are large and pus-filled and can be the most painful. Oily skin is both a symptom and cause of acne which is why it’s most likely to occur in teenagers as hormones cause glands to produce more oil. To avoid scarring and reduce the symptoms there is treatment available. You can buy prescription acne medication online via our online doctor service. Acne can be a debilitating condition, particularly in young people so it’s important to know what causes your acne and how it can be treated.
What causes acne?
Acne is usually caused by a change in hormones which is why it’s more common in teenagers during puberty. People with acne produce more oil in the sebaceous glands which are attached to the hair follicles, and this oil and sometimes dirt and dead skin cells can clog pores. Acne occurs when the clogged follicle is pushed towards the surface creating a bulging spot. The oil that is produced is known as sebum, and with acne too much of this sebum is produced.
If bacteria also gets into the clogged follicle this can cause the spot to become infected which is when they become cysts, nodules, papules and pustules.
Changes in hormones is the most common trigger for acne. For teenagers it is the change in the levels of the hormone testosterone which is found in both girls and boys. An increase in testosterone plays a part in the body producing more sebum in the sebaceous glands, which is the basis for acne developing. More women than men suffer from acne as women experience more hormone changes in their life. Acne in women is more prominent during times of hormonal changes such as during their period and pregnancy. Acne is also a symptom of a common condition in women known as polycystic ovary syndrome.
There are many other causes of an acne flare up, some cases are often triggered by products used in everyday life. Makeup and other cosmetic products are both skin saviours and skin woes. The beauty industry programs us to follow a strict skincare regime that for some can be doing more harm than good. Overusing skincare products can actually worsen acne by dehydrating it which means your skin produces more oil. Some products are also fragranced and contain ingredients such as alcohol which can aggravate and irritate the skin and prompt a breakout. Look out for products that are perfumed to avoid the skin becoming dry, red and sore.
If you’ve never suffered from acne before and have suddenly developed it after taking certain medications this may well be the cause of your acne. Drugs such as corticosteroids or lithium which is used to treat depression can trigger acne flare ups, however, drug-related acne is not common and you should consult a GP before coming off any medication if you think your acne may be related to the medication you’re taking.
Is acne hereditary?
In some families acne is a recurring condition through generations, which begs the question, is the cause of acne genetics? There is a hereditary tendency for developing acne if both of your parents have suffered from the condition. The type of acne that you have such as cystic acne may also be the result of your genetic makeup. Although acne is caused predominantly by environmental factors genetics may certainly play a role in your chances of developing the condition.
What treatments are available for acne?
Getting a diagnosis will determine what method of treatment is suitable for your condition. There are different levels of severity which will be treated in different ways. Mild acne consists of whiteheads and blackheads, when these become more widespread with the frequent appearance papules and pustules the severity level is moderate. Cystic acne and acne that is infected or has large, sore papules, pustules and nodules is considered to be severe acne. The severity of your acne will depend on who you should visit for treatment. For mild acne a pharmacist may be able to recommend some over the counter topical treatments, but for moderate to severe acne this may need stronger treatment which needs to be prescribed by a GP.
Many prescription medications for acne contain retinoids and antibiotics in the form of gels and cream or capsules. The combined contraception pill can also be prescribed to treat acne in women particularly if the cause of acne is hormone-related. You can buy these topical treatments online once you have been diagnosed by a GP and deemed suitable to use these medications. Many of the medications that you can buy on Doctor-4-U combine antibiotics with the peeling agent benzoyl peroxide to kill bacteria associated with acne, unclog pores and reduce white and black heads. The medications available on Doctor-4-U include:
- Differin gel - once daily topical treatment to reduce spots and inflammation
- Duac gel - antibiotic and peeling agent to reduce bacteria, infection and unclog pores
- Epiduo gel - retinoid and peeling agent to soften the surface layers of the skin and reduce bacteria
- Lymecycline capsules - antibiotic to reduce infection and the formation of white and black heads
- Zindaclin gel - antibiotic to kill bacteria and reduce inflammation
- Zineryt solution - topical treatment containing antibiotic to reduce level of skin bacteria
Topical antibiotics are not recommended for long term use as the bacteria associated with acne known as Propionibacterium acnes may become resistant to it. However, they are a great short term method of clearing your skin of the bacteria and reducing the chances of infection. Topical retinoids have an exfoliating effect which remove dead skin cells from the hair follicles.
There is no cure for acne but these treatments are effective in reducing the symptoms and the amount of breakouts.The first step in treating acne is knowing what triggers your breakouts in the first place and avoiding these triggers as much as you can.
What happens if acne is left untreated?
Some people believe that completely leaving their acne alone and not aggravating it with anything will help it to clear up. Whilst avoiding putting the wrong ingredients on your skin is a good idea, leaving it untreated may lead to infection and scarring. Many people take treating their acne into their own hands by popping spots in an attempt to clear them up faster when in fact this can cause the skin to become infected. Reducing the formation of spots and killing the bacteria on the skin with treatment will improve the appearance of the skin and reduce further complications of acne.
Scarring is a complication of acne and is more common in people with severe acne where nodules and cysts have burst. Not treating cystic acne may lead to scarring. Having acne or a scarred face can significantly impact a person’s self esteem and in some cases this can lead to depression. Leaving your acne untreated will only worsen the condition and lower your self esteem even further. Treatment not only improves this skin condition, it also reduces the chance of complications associated with acne.
Who is suitable for treatment?
Treatment for acne should always be discussed with a GP. If you have been diagnosed with severe acne you will be suitable for prescription medication providing that they do not affect any other health condition that you may have or any other medication that you may be taking. The type of treatment that you receive will depend on the severity of your condition and the cause of your acne, for instance, if it is caused by hormonal conditions the contraceptive pill may be suitable.