Acne - A Basic Understanding


acne
 
Acne Vulgaris, commonly referred to as pimples, is an inflammatory disease of the skin. This condition is very common in puberty. As one reaches their early twenties, it either disappears or decreases. Acne begins because of the comedo, an enlarged hair follicle plugged with oil and bacteria. The comedo is invisible to the naked eye and is present beneath the surface of the skin. When it gets the right condition, it grows into an inflamed lesion. The oil produced from the skin helps bacteria to flourish within the swollen follicle. Acne afflicts all genders, sexes and ages making it a universal skin disorder. As a form of skin disease, the good news is that acne is not transmittable.
 
Although acne is not contagious from person-to-person, it can spread to the whole face and can severely affect all the skin tissues that have pilosebaceous units. It is not true that acne just affects those going through puberty. Even infants or individuals who may be well over their forties, can develop this skin disorder. Acne infantilis is the term used for acne that grows on newborn babies, on the other hand acne rosacea is related to middle-aged people.
 
Non-inflammatory acre are of two types – Closed comedo or white head, and Open comedo or black head.
 
There are 4 types of inflammatory acne:
 
  1. Papule – It is the mildest form that appears on the skin as a small, firm pink bump.
 
  1. Pustule – They are small round lesions containing visible pus. They may appear red at the base and yellowish or whitish at the center.
 
  1. Nodule or Cyst – Large and painful, they are pus-filled lesions lodged deep within the skin. The nodules may persist for weeks or months with the contents hardening into a deep cyst. Both nodules and cysts often leave deep scars.
 
  1. Acne Conglobata – This severe bacterial infection develops mostly on the back, buttocks and chest.
Acne has different classifications, according to the severity of the infection.
 
Comedo is the form where all severe acne cases originate. This is characterized by red swelling or small lesions on your skin. Whiteheads and blackheads are two forms of comedo. Conversely, blackhead is an open comedo. The coloration is due to the accumulation of dark skin pigments called melanin, plus hardened sebum and other skin debris and particles. This is the basic structure of whiteheads, however, the only difference is the coloration and these are deeply situated into the skin layers.
 
If you have sandpaper-like skin around the tissue of your mouth and on the surface of your forehead, chin and cheeks, you probably have papules. Pus-filled lesions are also termed as pustules.
 
Nodules on the other hand are similar with pustules. However, nodules are firmer and are larger acne growing deep in the skin. Inflammation may develop your pustules into containing semi-liquid or liquid materials composed of white blood cells (which are dead because of the acne-infecting bacteria named as Propionibacterium acnes), dead skin cells and active or inactive bacteria. This can result into more serious acne called cysts. In such situations, you may need the assistance of a skin dermatologist or physician.
 
What is the cause of acne? It is quite difficult to exactly determine what may have caused your acne infection as reasons differ case to case. Studies indicate that the skin disorder may be brought about by many factors, including poor diet, stress, weather elements, and hormone changes or may be genetically influenced.
 
Medically speaking, acne starts from the formation of hardened sebum, or the oily substance secreted to the skin through the sebaceous glands. This then will be permeated with acne-infecting bacteria, which in return will trigger the immune system to release white blood cells to obstruct the attack of the bacteria. As this happens, dead white blood cells and bacteria will accumulate in the hair follicles mixed with skin debris and dead skin particles, which then will inflame the lesions. 
 
For controlling acne, you can carry out the following steps:
 
  • Avoid excessive washing of your skin. It can leave the healthy skin dry, thus irritating the acne prone areas. Over-washing may also stimulate extra oil production.
  • Avoid alcohol products to tone your skin. Alcohol is a strong astringent that strips the top layer of the skin causing sebaceous glands to produce more oil.
  • Do not squeeze or pick the acne with fingernails, pins or any other thing. It forces the bacteria deeper into the skin and often leaves a permanent acne scar.
  • A wash is required after exercise. The heat and moisture trapped against the skin creates an ideal breeding ground for the spread of bacteria.
  • Consume food rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin B-2, Vitamin B-3, Vitamin E and Zinc like eggs, nuts, liver, milk, fish and leafy green vegetables.
  • Proper sleep and a life without stress and emotional anxiety can reduce acne.
  • Wear little make-up while exercising. Avoid garments that are made exclusively with nylon. 
Laser surgery is often used to reduce the scars left behind by acne. Treating acne with azelaic acid, salicylic acid, tropical retinoids and benzoyl peroxide is also common. A large number of people started trying herbal acne treatments over the traditional medications by using teas, oils and herbal creams.
 
Knowing that you are not the only one inflicted with acne at some point in life or another helps in that there will always be new research and new products coming on stream. Continue to read up on acne research and help your fight against it.

 



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Natural Health Expert Panel

Seema Dixit



Dr. S.S. Aggarwal


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