Acne: what it is, symptoms, causes and treatment


Acne, popularly known as pimples, is an inflammation that arises when the hair follicle becomes clogged, accumulating oil or dead skin cells, which can favor the growth of bacteria at the base of the follicle and the appearance of acne on the face, forehead, chest, upper back or shoulders.

Acne is usually caused by hormonal changes, being more common in adolescence, pregnancy or during menstruation, but it can also occur at any stage of life due to stress, a high-fat diet or the use of medication, such as corticosteroids, for example.

Acne treatment should be guided by a dermatologist who may indicate the use of topical creams or even antibiotics or oral retinoids, depending on the type of acne and the severity of symptoms. Check out the main types of acne.

main symptoms

Acne symptoms vary depending on their severity and cause, and usually include:

  • small carnationswhich are black or white spots on the face, chest, or back;
  • papuleswhich are rounded, hardened, and reddened bumps on the skin;
  • pustuleswhich are small pimples that contain pus;
  • Internal lumps under the skinsolid and painful;
  • cystswhich are large, painful, pus-filled nodules;

Also, in some cases, when acne forms cysts, the skin can be left with marks or scars.

It is important to consult a dermatologist whenever acne symptoms appear, so that the cause can be evaluated, the type of acne diagnosed and, thus, the most appropriate treatment is initiated.

How to confirm the diagnosis

The diagnosis of acne is made by the dermatologist by evaluating the skin of the face, chest, back and shoulders, analyzing the family history of acne and other factors, such as stress or medication use.

In addition, the doctor may request a blood test or hormone dosage to identify changes that can lead to the appearance of acne, and thus, indicate the best treatment.

Possible causes

Acne is caused by an obstruction of the hair follicles and an increase in the production of sebum by the sebaceous glands, leading to an accumulation of oil and dead cells at the base of the follicle, causing inflammation and favoring the growth of bacteria.

Some factors can contribute to the development of acne, such as:

  • Family history of acne;
  • Increased testosterone levels in adolescence;
  • Hormonal changes during pregnancy or menstrual period;
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome;
  • Use of medication, such as steroids, birth control pills, antidepressants or antiepileptics;
  • smoking habit;
  • Stress;
  • Use of oily cosmetics that clog skin pores;
  • Food rich in fried foods, fatty meats or excess sugar.

In addition, improper cleaning of the skin or exposure to polluted environments can lead to the accumulation of oil on the skin and cause the hair follicles to become clogged, increasing the risk of acne development. Check out other causes of acne.

How is the treatment done?

Acne treatment is performed by the dermatologist, who may indicate the use of drugs to control excessive production of oil by the skin, prevent the development of bacteria or reduce inflammation of the skin, which depends on age, cause, type and acne severity

The main treatments that the doctor may recommend are:

  • Antibiotics or anti-inflammatories for topical usein the form of creams, gels or solutions, such as azelaic acid, salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide;
  • Antibiotics in pill formsuch as tetracycline and minocycline;
  • Combined oral contraceptivescontaining estrogen and progesterone, in the case of acne in women;
  • Antiandrogens in pill formsuch as spironolactone;
  • retinoidssuch as isotretinoin in tablet form, or adapalene or tretinoin for topical use.

Other treatments that may be recommended by the doctor are radiofrequency, phototherapy, laser, pulsed light, chemical peeling or application of corticosteroids directly to acne with nodules or cysts.

It is also important to clean the skin correctly, as it allows you to reduce the oiliness of the skin, in addition to eliminating excess bacteria. See how to properly cleanse your skin.

In addition, during treatment it is important to drink 2 to 2.5 liters of water a day to keep the skin hydrated and to have a balanced diet, with whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, which help to reduce skin inflammation.

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