Acne is the most common skin condition in the United States, affecting about 40-50 million Americans. It is very common in teenagers and young adults but can appear later into adulthood, and a growing number of women have it in their 30s, 40s, or 50s. This common condition can appear on the face, neck, chest, back, shoulders, and buttocks. Various forms can appear as blackheads, whiteheads, papules, pustules, cysts, and nodules, and acne can result in scarring or dark spots. This skin disease can have a significant impact on quality of life, often leading to low self-esteem and depression.
Acne is caused by the clogging of pores by dead skin cells. When a lot of sebum (oil that keeps the skin from drying) is produced in the pores, skin cells that are normally shed stick together and become trapped inside the pore. There is a kind of bacterium living in pores called p. acnes, which can become more numerous in clogged pores and can drive inflammation causing redness and swelling.
Acne is diagnosed by a dermatologist based on visual examination of the skin. It can be inflammatory or noninflammatory and can range from mild to severe. There are many different treatments which should be specifically tailored to each person’s specific skin needs. Some options are medicated washes, some are topical creams, gels, or lotions, and others are pill medication taken by mouth. Most treatments control the disease and must be used regularly for benefit. Isotretinoin is an option with lasting benefit after stopping the medication, and some who have taken the medicine might be considered cured, never having any future breakouts. Often a dermatologist will use multiple treatments in combination to best control acne. It is important to treat this disease early and aggressively to prevent the formation of scars, which can be permanent.