Acne is the term for a disorder resulting from the action of hormones on the skin's oil glands (sebaceous glands) which leads to plugged pores and outbreaks of lesions commonly called whiteheads, pimples or "zits." The lesions usually occur on the face, neck, back, shoulders and chest. Nearly 17 million Americans suffer from acne, making it the most common skin disease in the nation. Although it is not a serious health threat, severe acne can lead to disfigurement, permanent scarring, and has a significant psychological impact on a person's self-esteem and outlook on life, including frustration, reduced self-confidence, and even anger.
By better understanding acne, you can find reliable treatments whether you use natural methods at home or visit a skilled dermatologist to obtain prescribed medication. Dispelling some of the frequent misconceptions and myths about acne will also help in control and treatment, thereby reducing emotional stress and embarrassment.
People of all ages and races get acne. It is most common, however, in adolescents and young adults. Approximately 85% of young people between the ages of 12 and 24 develop the disorder. For most people, acne tends to subside by the time they reach their thirties: however, some people in their forties and fifties continue to battle this skin problem.
There are many myths about what causes acne. Soft drinks, chocolate and greasy foods like French fries and pizza have often been blamed, but recent medical research shows that foods seem to have little effect on the development or the course of acne. It may be just a coincidence that acne breaks out in teenagers when they are consuming large quantities of the mentioned foods.
Acne is not a result of poor hygiene. It is not a result of dirt or surface skin oils. In fact, vigorous scrubbing of the affected areas will irritate the skin and actually make the acne worse. And the ordinary stress of every day life is not an important factor in acne.
Doctors describe acne as a disease of the sebaceous glands which produce a oily substance called sebum that normally empties onto the skin surface through a small opening, commonly called a pore. These pores may sometimes be plugged, which prevents the sebum from reaching the surface. A mixture of oil and dead skin cells allows bacteria to grow in the plugged pores.
These bacteria produce chemicals that attract white blood cells which, in turn, causes the inflammation. The four signs of inflammation: swelling, redness, heat, and pain, are a characteristic reaction of tissues to disease or injury. When the wall of the plugged pore breaks down, it spills everything into the nearby skin--sebum, shed skin cells, and bacteria--causing the pimples.
The exact cause of acne is unknown, but doctors believe it results from several related factors. Perhaps the most important factor is the increase in hormones called androgens (male sex hormones). These increase in both sexes during puberty and cause the sebaceous glands to enlarge and produce more sebum. Another important factor is heredity or genetics. Researchers have found that a tendency to develop acne can be inherited from parents. Using greasy cosmetics may also contribute by altering the cells and plugging the pores.
While many people think that acne treatment is simply popping each pimple as it appears, this method will actually make your condition worse in the long run. This process is likely to lead to unsightly and life-long scarring. Reliable and dependable acne treatment requires a certain amount of patience since medications may not work initially. You may have to try several medications before finding the one that works for you. As with most other medical conditions there is no "one-size-fits-all" solution for the treatment of acne.
Despite the possible difficulties, acne is a treatable condition. The goals are to heal existing lesions, stop new lesions from forming, prevent scarring and minimize the psychological stress that comes from decreased self-esteem, anger, depression and frustration caused by the appearance of the pimples.
About the Author
Larry Denton is a retired history teacher having taught 33 years at Hobson High in Hobson, Montana. He is currently Vice President of Elfin Enterprises, Inc., an Internet business dedicated to providing information and resources on a variety of topics. If you would like a doctor's office full of information to help you better understand, prevent, and treat acne, visit http://www.AcneDesk.com
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