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Teenage acne

Acne is a skin problem that affects almost all teenagers. The condition results from the action of hormones on the skin's oil glands, known as sebaceous glands. These glands make an oily substance called sebum, which empties on to the skin surface through the hair follicle opening (pore). The mixture of oil and cells allows bacteria that normally live on the skin to grow in the follicle openings. When this happens pores become clogged and spots develop.


Spots can be one of the following kinds:


Comedones: Non-inflammatory papules that can be open (blackheads) or closed (whiteheads).

Papules: Lesions that are inflamed and can be tender to the touch. These usually appear as small pink bumps on the skin.

Pustules (spots): Lesions that are inflamed and filled with pus. They may be red at the base.

Nodules: Solid lesions that are large, painful and lodged deep within the skin.

Cysts: Pus-filled lesions deep under the skin. These may cause scarring and pain.


In most cases spots occur on the face, neck, back, chest and shoulders. Acne does not present a serious health risk, but severe acne can result in permanent scarring. It can also have significant physical and psychological consequences such as causing a poor self-image, social inhibition and anxiety.


Why do some people get acne and others don't?


It is not clear why some people are more prone to acne than others. The exact cause of acne is not known, but one important factor is an increase in male sex hormones called androgens. Androgens increase in both boys and girls during puberty. Androgens cause the sebaceous glands (oil glands) to get larger and produce more sebum. Androgens can also increase because of hormonal changes related to pregnancy or starting or stopping birth control pills.


Another factor in the cause of acne is genetics. Researchers believe that the tendency to develop acne can be inherited from parents. In addition some medicines - for example anti- epilepsy medication, prednisolone, androgens and lithium - are known to cause acne. Cosmetics that have a greasy consistency may change the cells of the follicles, causing them to stick together and resulting in a plugged pore. Water-based products are less likely to cause acne.


Things that can make acne worse include:


Friction caused by leaning on or rubbing the skin; harsh scrubbing

Picking or squeezing blemishes

Pressure from bike helmets, rucksacks or tight collars

Changing hormone levels in adolescent girls and adult women two to seven days before the start of a period (menstruation)

Stress


Other factors that were previously thought to make acne worse do not seem to have an effect on the development of acne. These factors include chocolate, greasy foods and dirty skin.


What does acne look like?


Acne can appear as one of the following:

Whiteheads: White dots that are pores impacted with oil and skin covered by skin layers.

Blackheads: Black bumps that are impacted pores in which material pushes out through the follicles. The black colour is not from dirt. It may be from bacteria and matter that react with oxygen.

Papules, pustules or nodules: More serious lesions appearing red and swollen due to inflammation or infection of the tissue around the clogged follicles, which are often painful and feel hard.

Cysts: Deep, painful pus-filled lesions that can cause scarring.


How is acne treated?


Your doctor will treat mild acne, but may refer severe cases to a dermatologist (a doctor who specialises in skin problems).


Treatments may include:


Over-the-countertopical medicine treatments: Over-the-counter medications are available in many forms including gel, lotion, cream, soap or pads. When these products are used regularly they are moderately effective in the treatment of acne. It may take four to eight weeks for an improvement to occur in the skin.

Prescription topical medicine treatments: The prescription topical medicine treatments that are used to treat acne include benzoyl peroxide, antibiotics, tretinoin, adapalene and azelaic acid. Prescription and over-the-counter benzoyl peroxide work the same way. Doctors may prescribe benzoyl peroxide so that they can make sure that their patients get the most desirable formulation (for example cream, lotion or gel).

Prescription oral medicine treatments: For patients with moderate to severe acne doctors often prescribe oral antibiotics (taken by mouth) in addition to topical medication. Oral antibiotics are thought to help control acne by curbing the growth of bacteria and decreasing inflammation. They are usually taken daily for a period of four to six months and then tapered and discontinued as acne improves. The most potent oral medicine, isotretinoin is usually taken once or twice a day for 16 to 20 weeks. It is believed to markedly reduce the size of the oil glands so that much less oil is produced. As a result the growth of acne-causing bacteria is decreased. However isotretinoin can cause birth defects in the developing foetus of women who are pregnant while taking the medicine. Women of child-bearing age must not be pregnant and must not become pregnant while taking isotretinoin.


Skin care tips for teenagers


Many teenagers struggle with acne because of their changing hormones. Here are some skin care tips to help teenagers keep their skin as clear as possible:

Take care when choosing cosmetics: Cosmetics such as foundation, blusher and also moisturiser should be oil-free. Choose products that do not encourage blemishes or cause blocked pores (these may be described as non-comedogenic products). Ask a qualified sales person which skin products would be best for your skin type.

Don't pick at your face: If you pick, squeeze or pinch blemishes, you risk developing acne scars. Don't rub or touch blemishes.

Be gentle with cleansing: Hard scrubbing will only make your skin condition worse. Gently wash your skin with a mild cleanser in the morning, at bedtime, and after heavy exercise. Avoid rough scrubs or pads. After you wash your skin, rinse it thoroughly.

Use sunscreen (at least SPF 15) regularly: The sun can damage the skin and promote premature ageing of the skin. Although a tan or sunburn can make the skin feel less oily, the benefits are short-lived. Remember that some acne medications, as well as some other medications, can make you more prone to sunburn. For this reason, always use sunscreens. Re-apply sunscreen every couple of hours when spending time outdoors.


Be careful when shaving: Avoid accidentally nicking blemishes by shaving lightly and only when you have to. Experiment with different razors to find the one that is most comfortable for your skin.



Source: WebMD

Acne