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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Acne Does Not Equal Zits

Posted by patrick

By Frank Williams

There are various types of acne, named according to how or why the acne arose. Some of the forms of acne are: acne conglobata (chronic boils); acne fulminans (an extreme form of conglobata); acne cosmetica (caused by cosmetics); acne keloidalis nuchae (from shaving); acne medicamentosa (caused by starting or stopping a medication); acne rosacea (redness on the face); baby acne; hormonal acne; cloracne and the common variety, acne vulgaris (also known as 'puberty spots'). In this article, we will concentrate on acne vulgaris.

Acne vulgaris can be described as: 'an inflammatory disease of the skin, caused by changes in the pilosebaceous units (skin structures consisting of a hair follicle and its associated sebaceous gland). Acne lesions are commonly referred to as pimples, spots or zits' (according to Wikipedia).

Acne is most often found in Western teenagers, although it does occur in every country in the world, so there could be a genetic predisposition to it. It is possible that it may be an abnormal reaction to fairly average levels of testosterone. For most sufferers, the condition lasts only until adulthood, probably only a few years or at most ten. For others, however, it can be a life-long recurring problem. It most often affects the face, upper-chest, upper-arms and back. However, an occasional spot does not constitute acne.

Acne vulgaris manifests itself in different many ways, including: whiteheads, caused by pores which are completely blocked, trapping sebum (oil), bacteria, and dead skin cells, causing a white spot on the top; blackheads, caused by pores which are only partially blocked, allowing some of the trapped sebum, bacteria, and dead skin cells to slowly drain to the surface (the black colour is not a result of dirt, but is a reaction of the skin's own pigment, called melanin, with the oxygen in the air); papules, which are inflamed, red, tender bumps with no head and pustules, which are similar to whiteheads, but are inflamed, and look like red circles with a white or yellow centre.

Whiteheads do not often last for a long time; blackheads do last a long time and pustules are what people usually refer to as spots or zits. Severe acne vulgaris is distinguished by nodules and cysts. A 'nodule' is a rather larger and much more painful sort of pustule and can often last for months. Nodules are large, hard lumps just under the skin. They often cause scarring and should never for any reason be squeezed, since this could make them last for months longer.

A 'cyst' can appear similar to a nodule, but it is full of pus and has been described as having a diameter of at least 5mm and, again, can leave scars and cause irritation. Squeezing an acne cyst can cause a deeper infection and more painful inflammation which can last very much longer than if it had not been squeezed. Dermatologists have ways of lessening the swelling and preventing scarring with both nodules and cysts. It is a myth that acne sufferers are not meticulous about washing.

In fact, excessive washing can irritate acne. There are many, many false 'cures' on the market and many, many old wives' tales. However, any honest dermatologist would advise you that there is no sure-fire remedy for acne and that the sufferer has to follow a strict regimen of cleaning until the acne eventually 'disappears' of its own accord.

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