Acne is a very common skin condition and can generally be self-managed or by your GP if becoming problematic.
Acne is most common in teenage years due to hormonal changes in puberty however it is known to affect most people at some stage in their lives.
It is commonly referred to as "spots or pimples" and usually affects the face, chest, shoulders and back.
There are six main type of acne spots and patients will display some or all of these at any one time.
1. Blackheads: open, clogged pores where oil turns brown.
2. Whiteheads (very common): closed clogged pores that are firm and won’t pop
3. Papules: these are small, red bumps that feel sore to touch
4. Pustules: papules that are filled with pus and display a white tip
5. Nodules: large painful lumps under the skin
6. Cysts: large lumps filled with pus that look similar to boils
Acne occurs when dead skin cells and oil from the skin clog hair follicles and pores. It is mainly driven by male hormones such as testosterone.
Sensitivity to such hormones, combined with bacteria that lives on our skin and oil within the glands leads to the varying types of acne seen.
The mainstay of treatment is with topical medications that you can apply directly to the skin. However there are many "self-help" techniques that can help including:
1. Self-help: a) Use a mild soap or cleanser and lukewarm water to wash the affected skin no more than twice a day. Water that's too hot or cold water can make acne worse.
b) Try not to squeeze the spots or try to clean out blackheads. This can often make things worse or lead to scars.
c) Don't use too much make-up or cosmetics and remember to remove all make-up before bed.
2. Over the counter treatments: a) Benzoyl Peroxide: Most common treatment used which helps to prevent dead skin cells blocking pores. It can cause dry skin, irritation/redness and can stain clothing.
b) Topical Retinoids: Such as adapalene cream or gels helps by reducing the production of fatty secretions (sebum) and stops dead skin cells blocking hair follicles.
c) Antibiotics: these can be prescribed by your GP either in a topical gel/cream for mild-moderate acne or as a daily oral antibiotic for more severe cases. The latter is generally used for minimum of 3 months.
d) The oral retinoid Isotretinoin is reserved for people with severe disease and can only be prescribed by a skin specialist (Dermatologist) as it requires close monitoring of the skin but also your bloods including cholesterol profile.
e) Hormonal methods: such as the combined oral contraceptive pill called Dianette. This can be discussed further with your GP