Acne also known as acne vulgaris is a common skin disease that commonly affects adolescents of both genders. It is a skin condition where the hair follicles, commonly referred to as pores get clogged with oil and dead skin cells. Although a generally manageable skin condition that could be dealt with self-care or over-the-counter medications, few cases would require complete diagnosis and treatment plan by a dermatologist. Of the two types of acne, inflammatory and non-inflammatory acne, the latter is usually manageable with over-the counter medications, while the former requires medical attention.

Symptoms – Although acne could occur on the back, neck, shoulders and chest, the most commonplace occurrence is the face. Pimples are the typical symptoms of acne followed by blackheads and whiteheads. In few severe cases symptoms are denoted by

  • Papules – small, red pimples caused by infected hair follicles
  • Pustules – small, red pimples filled with pus
  • Nodules – solid, painful lumps beneath the surface of the skin
  • Cysts – Large painful lumps found beneath the skin containing pus

Causes– Although genetics play an important role in the development of acne, hormones that occur during menstruation and puberty are also a leading cause. A hormone called androgen is responsible for the over-secretion of sebum (oils) from the sebaceous glands that lie in the pores of the hair follicle. The presence of the bacteria, Cutibacterium acnes, in excess can also lead to acne. In specific instances, skin infections, high GI food intake and stress cause an outbreak of acne.

Treatment Plan – The evaluation of the treatment plan begins with a genetic history of acne in the family followed by analysis of the symptoms of excessive hormones. Upon examining the skin to determine the presence of comedones, commonly known as blackheads and whiteheads, acne vulgaris can be confirmed. Based on these diagnostic observations the dermatologist would decide upon the treatment plan as follows.

  • Oral or topical antibiotics – They can help reduce inflammation and kill the bacteria
  • Prescribed topical creams – Topical creams containing Benzoyl Peroxide work to reduce the production of sebum or oils.
  • Hormonal acne in women may be treated with hormone regulating medications like birth control pills that contain estrogen and progestin.

Treatment for acne is often successful. One can expect results in about 6 to 8 weeks. However, intermittent check-up is required to avoid a relapse.

A few unusual, less severe, side effects of oral or topical medications include

  • Dry skin
  • Peeling of skin
  • Redness of skin
  • Itching/Rash
  • Hives

The more severe side effects occurring from medications would include

  • Skin Irritation
  • Allergic drug reaction
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Skin Discoloration

It is important to note that, although the side effects are mentioned, the chances of occurrence are indeed rare and is treatable by the doctor.