Acne is the most common skin disorder occurring during the second and third decades of life. It is an inflammatory skin condition brought on by overactive sebaceous glands (oil glands). It usually involves the face, and frequently the chest and back. At puberty the oil glands in the skin begin producing an oily material called sebum. Sebum is discharged onto the skin surface through pores. With acne the oil glands become plugged causing pimples, blackheads, whiteheads, and cysts.

  • A pimple, or pustule, is formed when the follicle wall breaks open allowing sebum and bacteria to spill into the tissue. This results in redness, swelling, and pus.
  • A “blackhead” or open come done is a plug of sebum mixed with dead cells and bacteria. When this material is exposed to the air it oxidizes and turns dark.
  • A “whitehead” or closed come done is plug of sebum and bacteria that has become enclosed within a cellular sac.
  • A cyst is sebum, bacteria, and pus encapsulated within a thickened cell wall.
  • Types of Acne

    Every mark on the skin produced by acne is a type of lesion. The mildest cases of acne produce blackheads and whiteheads. (The color of these is determined by whether the plugged follicle remains open or closed. If it is closed, it is a whitehead.)More troublesome acne lesions include

  • papules – inflamed lesions that usually appear as small, pink bumps on the skin and can be tender to the touch
  • pustules (pimples) – white or yellow pus-filled lesions that may be red at the base
  • nodules – large, painful, solid lesions lodged deep within the skin
  • cysts – deep, painful, pus-filled lesions that can cause scarring
  • Treatment

    The type of treatment people with acne get depends on the severity of the outbreak. “There are OTC products for mild cases, while a visit to a health care professional such as a dermatologist may be in order for the more stubborn cases,” says Liedtka.

    Acne treatments are regulated by FDA under the same provisions of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act covering prescription and nonprescription (or OTC) products. Types of prescription topical medicines used to treat acne include antibiotics, benzoyl peroxide, azelaic acid, dapsone, and vitamin A derivatives known as retinoids.People with moderate to severe inflammatory acne may be treated with prescription topical or oral medicines, alone or in combination. And people with nodules or cysts should be treated by a dermatologist.